South Asia Media Solidarity Network - August 2011 Bulletin
South Asia Media Solidarity Network - August 2011 Bulletin
Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on September 15, 2011 and inputs are most welcome. We encourage contributions to let others know what you are doing; to seek solidarity and support from other SAMSN members; and to find out what others are doing in the region.
To contribute, email email@example.com
SAMSN is a group of journalists’ trade unions, press freedom organisations and journalists in South Asia that have agreed to work together to support freedom of expression and association in the region. SAMSN was formed at a meeting of these groups in Kathmandu, Nepal, in September 2004. The group agreed to stand in solidarity and work together for media reform, for an independent pluralist media and to build public respect for the work of journalists in the region.
For further information on SAMSN, visit www.ifj-asia.org/page/samsn.html
1. Pakistan’s Journalists Face Unrelenting Threats
Muneer Shakir, aged in his early 30s, was shot dead in Khuzdar in Central Balochistan, Pakistan, as he left the local press club for home on the afternoon of August 14. The reporter for an online news agency and a local TV news channel is the seventh journalist killed in Pakistan in 2011 and the sixth in Balochistan since early 2010. From the North Waziristan region, SAMSN partners report that Rehmatullah Dawar was abducted on August 11 and remains untraced. Dawar, a reporter with the widely-viewed Aaj TV and the Urdu daily Ausaf, was snatched at a bazaar in Miranshah by unidentified men. No one has claimed responsibility and the motive remains unclear.
2. Afghan Journalist Killed in Insurgent Attack, Crossfire
SAMSN partner the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) reports the death of journalist Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak in an armed attack in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan on July 28. Khpalwak, 25, was a reporter with the BBC Pashto Service, Pajhwok Afghan News Agency and the state broadcaster Radio Television of Afghanistan (RTA). He was killed in Tarin Kowt, the capital of the troubled province, when insurgents detonated three bombs and launched an armed attack on a government military patrol near the RTA studios. The Taliban Islamic insurgent group claimed responsibility for the attack but denied killing Khpalwak.
3. Arrest and Remand of Bangladesh Editor
SAMSN partners in Bangladesh have reacted sharply to the arrest and remand of Mohammad Ekramul Haq, editor of the Sheersha News web portal and the associated weekly newspaper Sheersha Kagoj, in Dhaka on July 31. Haq was arrested after a local businessman laid charges of extortion against him, but investigations by independent journalists have cast doubt on the credentials of the accuser. Following his initial remand for three days, Haq’s remand was extended after the leader of an association of Bangladesh government employees also laid charges of extortion against him.
4. Attacks and Threats Against Journalists in Nepal
Kishor Budhathoki, a reporter for The Himalayan Times and its sister publication the Annapurna Post, was attacked by a group of up to 10 assailants in Sankhuwasabha district, in eastern Nepal, on August 11. Budhathoki is reported to be in a critical condition in hospital. SAMSN partner the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) believes that it has identity of the person who led the assailants in dragging Budhathoki out of his home at night and attacking him. Meanwhile, some of Nepal’s most senior journalists met with Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal on August 14 to urge action against political elements who have been threatening journalists. This followed threats by the head of the youth affiliate of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), or UML, which currently heads the governing coalition at the national level.
5. Senior Journalist Attacked in Jaffna
SAMSN partners in Sri Lanka have reported a brutal attack on Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil daily Uthayan, in Sri Lanka’s northern city of Jaffna on July 29. According to reports, Kuhanathan, 59, was left for dead after being attacked with iron rods by two unidentified men while on his way home in the evening. He was discovered in a critical condition by passers-by and is on life-support in hospital. Uthayan has been the target of repeated attacks during the course of the island nation’s 25-year civil war. The most recent attack is believed to have been in retribution for the newspaper’s editorial stance in support of the Tamil National Alliance in recent elections to local bodies in the northern province.
6. SAMSN Calls on Indian Newspaper Industry to Implement Wage Award
SAMSN partners from India and elsewhere have expressed concern at a petition filed by a leading newspaper group in India’s Supreme Court, arguing that the recent wage award for journalists and other newspaper employees violates the fundamental rights provisions of India’s Constitution. Hearing the petition filed by the Kolkata-based Ananda Bazar Patrika newspaper group on July 18, the court directed that the long delayed wage award be kept in abeyance till the matter is finally determined. The two Wage Boards constituted under India’s Working Journalists’ Act submitted their reports on new scales of pay for journalists and other newspaper employees on December 31, 2010, recommending a modest increase in basic wages earned by all categories of workers. G.R. Majithia, a retired high court judge, served as chairman of both boards. Since then there have been persistent efforts by the newspaper industry to influence public opinion against the wage awards. SAMSN partners in India report that from May, prominent newspapers have carried several articles on the editorial and op-ed pages attacking the wage board proposals as a mortal danger to the free press. This campaign, spearheaded by India’s largest media group, SAMSN partners have said, have been carried out in violation of the basic norms of ethical journalism.
Solidarity Messages for Journalists in India and
Partner organisations of SAMSN expressed solidarity with journalists who suffered assault and detention in India and Pakistan. In an incident in India, photographer Bhaskar Deka was assaulted by personnel of the Indian army as he was filming a scuffle between soldiers, villagers and students at Misamari, near Tezpur, in Sonitpur district of Assam state, on July 31. Deka suffered bruises and his camera was reportedly smashed by army personnel. He was later taken to a police station in the army camp and detained for some time. SAMSN partners also joined the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in demanding the suspension of police officers who assaulted security staff and manhandled three reporters at a newspaper office in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on August 6. Police arrived at the office of the Mashriq, a leading Urdu newspaper, after reports of gunfire in the area and sought to force their way into the premises, assaulting two security guards and attacking three reporters in the process.
8. SAMSN Meeting in Kathmandu Assesses Challenges
SAMSN partners held their ninth annual meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal between July 29 and 31. Participants discussed challenges facing journalism in the South Asian region, including threats posed by legal action and political harassment. There were also sessions devoted to the use of social media for campaigning and networking and a detailed briefing by expert staff of the UN on how to use the Universal Periodic Review process of the UN Human Rights Council to campaign for media freedom. Participants agreed on a charter for SAMSN and a set of governance rules. A steering committee has been set up to enhance cooperation and cross-border actions between SAMSN partners. Details to be posted soon on asiapacific.ifj.org. A version of the paper discussing legal threats and political harassment faced by journalists in India is available at:
9. Human Rights Watch Invites Applications
Human Rights Watch, the global campaign and advocacy organisation, has called for applications for fellowships from recent graduates of law schools or graduate programs in journalism, international relations, area studies, or other relevant disciplines from universities worldwide. The fellowships would be tenable for varying lengths of time and would be available for study and research in the area of international human rights.