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South Asia Media Solidarity Network Bulletin - August 2013

South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) Bulletin--August 2013

To SAMSN members and friends,

Welcome to the e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) for the month of August 2013. The next bulletin will be sent on September 15, 2013, 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.

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

Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

In this bulletin:

1.     Debate on cross-media ownership rules in India
2.     Raise in foreign investment ceiling contemplated in Indian media
3.     Hearings on wage board for India’s journalists to resume in Supreme Court
4.     Code of ethics for Sri Lanka media held in abeyance
5.     Journalism excellence awards presented in Sri Lanka
6.     Journalists covering protests in Sri Lanka attacked by army units
7.     Mahmudur Rahman remanded; Adilur Rahman arrested in Bangladesh
8.     Bangladesh blogger released, rearrested
9.     Competition watchdog to investigate TV ratings agency in India
10.  Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi denied bail
11.  Applications invited for Thomson Foundation-Foreign Press Association awards
12.  Press Council of India indicts state government for press freedom violations
13.  Indian journalist, Tongam Rina wins press freedom award
14.  Afghan newspaper harassed, journalist convicted on libel charges
15.  Proposals of Pakistan media commission discussed
16.  SAMSN annual meeting held in Kathmandu, action plans adopted

DETAILED REPORTS FOLLOW:

1.     Debate on cross-media ownership rules in India

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) acting on a mandate from India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) is continuing with broad-ranging consultations on possible restrictions on cross-media ownership. SAMSN partner, the Delhi Union of Journalists, submitted a response to an initial consultation paper circulated by TRAI. Media owners have subsequently joined the discussion and opposed the introduction of any such norms. Further information at: http://www.trai.gov.in/ConsultationDescription.aspx?CONSULT_ID=675&qid=0 and http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-calls-for-broad-union-participation-in-evolution-of-ownership-rules-for-indian-media.

2.     Raise in foreign investment ceiling contemplated in Indian media

The Union Government in India has mooted a proposal to raise the foreign investment ceiling in the equity of media companies to 49 per cent from the current 25 per cent. A formal notification issued by the Government in July however, left out the media industry from liberalised rules for foreign investment in a number of other sectors. Divided counsels within the industry and security worries expressed by the Union Home Ministry were believed to be behind this. However, a meeting of the Indian newspaper industry’s principal national level lobby – the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) – later endorsed the proposal with only two members in dissent. Broadcasters are also believed to favour the raising of foreign investment caps. Further details at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/divided-industry-propriety-of-process-slow-fdi-in-media-proposal/article4905861.ece and http://www.indianexpress.com/news/ins-okays-49-per-cent-fdi-in-print-media/1149467/.

3.     Hearings on wage board for India’s journalists to resume in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in India has posted all matters related to the latest Wage Board award for journalists and non-journalists, for final hearings following September 10. Hearings will begin before a new bench following the failure of an earlier bench which heard the matter through February, to deliver a final ruling because of the retirement of one member-judge. Further details at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/final-hearing-by-new-bench-in-wage-board-case-on-sept-10/article4996774.ece.

4.     Code of ethics for Sri Lanka media held in abeyance

Following protests by the Free Media Movement and the Sri Lanka Journalists’ Association, and by various international media freedom bodies, the Sri Lankan government has decided to keep its proposal to introduce a new media code of ethics in abeyance. The Sri Lankan president, after a meeting with senior editors, has reportedly instructed the Information Ministry to leave the matter in the hands of the journalists’ bodies which would be free to consider elements of the government draft. Further information at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jbEprDJhi8Xk2HIp7N_FK_kEo3-Q?docId=CNG.67d2181a80db59a06b597e7ba3f1856e.8d1.

5.     Journalism excellence awards presented in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka Press Institute and the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka jointly organised the annual excellence in journalism awards function on July 30. These awards, which were instituted in 1999, are now regarded as Sri Lanka's most prestigious annual event recognising journalistic excellence. Among those awarded was Seetha Ranjanee, senior journalist and press freedom activist, who was honoured with the Sepala Gunasena Award for Press Freedom. Seetha Ranjanee has been associated with IFJ's affiliate in Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement (FMM). She has served several terms in the key positions of Convenor and Secretary of the FMM. At the moment she is a member of the executive committee of the FMM, as well as the Sri Lanka Journalists' Association, another affiliate of the IFJ. Further details at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/fmm-activist-seetha-ranjanee-awarded-for-press-freedom-work and http://colombogazette.com/2013/07/31/journalism-awards-for-excellence/.

6.     Journalists covering protests in Sri Lanka attacked by army units

SAMSN partners have joined the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Journalists’ Association (SLJA) in strongly condemning an army crackdown on peaceful protests near the western town of Weliweriya which resulted in the death of three protesters and injuries to no fewer than fifteen journalists. SAMSN partners report that military units deployed to contain protests by residents of a village near Weliweriya town in western Sri Lanka on August 1, against the contamination of drinking water in the area, used indiscriminate force and specially targeted journalists covering the events. Journalists were warned against taking photographs and videographing the protests. Further details at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/journalists-harassed-and-attacked-as-army-cracks-down-on-peaceful-protesters

7.     Mahmudur Rahman remanded; Adilur Rahman arrested in Bangladesh

Mahmudur Rahman, editor of the Bangladesh newspaper Amar Desh has been remanded to further police custody in a case registered against him in February. Rahman, a critic of the current government, was arrested on April 11 on complaints of incitement to violence filed following Amar Desh’s coverage of ongoing youth protests over Bangladesh’s war crimes trials. Charges are yet to be laid against him on any of the complaints that have been registered. Meanwhile, Adilur Rahman, a prominent human rights defender associated with the campaign and advocacy group Odhikar, has been arrested under clauses of the Information and Communication Technology Act, for allegedly publishing exaggerated figures of casualties caused by a police crackdown on Islamic protests on the night of May 6. Adilur Rahman has been vocal in his defence of Mahmudur Rahman’s case. Further details at: http://bdinn.com/news/mahmudur-rahman-back-in-jail-after-remand/; http://tazakhobor.com/politics/5014-mahmudur-rahman-on-3-day-remand-again and http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/bangladesh-arrest-human-rights-defender-sends-chilling-message-2013-08-12

8.     Bangladesh blogger released, rearrested

Bangladesh youth activist and blogger Asif Mohiuddin was rearrested following the expiry of his one-month bail on July 29. A court in Dhaka held that there were no grounds for extending his bail and fixed August 25 for framing of charges against him and three other youth activists who remain free on bail -- Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Russel Parvez and Mashiur Rahman Biplob – in a case brought against them for causing offence to religious sentiments. Further details at: http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/blogger-asif-sent-to-jail/.

9.     Competition watchdog to investigate TV ratings agency in India

Following disagreements, a number of broadcasters pulled out of India’s only television ratings process run by the TAM Media in July and the anti-monopoly watchdog, Competition Commission of India (CCI) announced plans to investigate TAM Media for possible monopolistic behaviour. Following a deal between broadcasters and TAM Media that the reporting format would be revied to provide monthly aggregates of audience, rather than weekly ratings, the CCI investigation appears to have lost momentum. Further details at: http://www.indiantelevision.com/headlines/y2k13/aug/aug69.php.

10.  Journalist Lingaram Kodopi and co-accused Soni Sori denied bail

Lingaram Kodopi, a journalist from an indigenous (adivasi) community in Central India was denied bail at a hearing of the High Court in the state of Chhattisgarh on July 7. Kodopi along with his aunt Soni Sori, is an accused in a case of acting as a courier in a financial transaction involving the banned Maoist insurgents in the state and a major mining conglomerate, Essar Ltd. Kodopi has been acquitted in two other cases brought against him and Sori in five. Soni Sori’s husband died early in August and she was denied permission to attend his funeral. Further details at: http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=7dc34c00b8101d17704011d1a&id=cd796b4e27&e=f0f139b610.  

11.  Applications invited for Thomson Foundation-Foreign Press Association awards

The Thomson Foundation in association with the U.K. Foreign Press Association, has invited applications for the “Young Journalist” award, open to all media professionals who will be under the age of thirty as of 19 November 2013. The competition is open to all journalists from developing countries defined per the World Bank. Deadline for submissions is 18 September 2013. Further details at: http://www.thomsonfoundation.org/young-journalist-award.

12.  Press Council of India indicts state government for press freedom violations

The Press Council of India has adopted a report indicting the government in the eastern Indian state of Bihar for serious violations of press freedom. The report was prepared by a three-member fact-finding team of the council and has found the state government guilty of pressuring the press to downplay issues such as corruption, ignoring the opposition and favouring the establishment in news coverage. The council has called for an independent agency to oversee the allocation of government advertisements and observed that the press in the state depends mainly on this source of revenue since commercial ads were in short supply in the backward state. Further details at: http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/pci-adopts-report-indicting-nitish-govt-over-press-freedom-113072300711_1.html.

13.  Indian journalist, Tongam Rina wins press freedom award

Tongam Rina, a journalist from the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, has been awarded the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media - 2013" instituted by Media Foundation, Leipzig, Germany. While working as associate editor of the Arunachal Times, Rina was attacked in July 2012 near her office and suffered serious bullet injuries. She recovered only after months of intensive medical treatment. Further details at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-14/guwahati/40568881_1_tongam-rina-arunachal-press-club-leipzig and http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-condemns-attempted-murder-of-indian-journalist.

14.  Afghan newspaper harassed, journalist convicted on libel charges

Police authorities in Afghanistan have been accused on harassing the staff and owners of a Kabul-based daily newspaper, Mandegar. A reporter with the newspaper was arrested on July 5 and its editor was sentenced to thirty months in prison after hearings on a libel case which he was not aware of. The libel action was initiated by the head of the official anti-corruption ombudsman. Further details at: http://www.voanews.com/content/rights-group-afghanistan-violating-freedom-in-crackdown-on-newspaper/1700134.html.

15.  Proposals of Pakistan media commission discussed

Editors and other media professionals, including legal experts, have welcomed the recommendations of a Media Commission appointed by the Pakistan Supreme Court, which has suggested major changes in the regulatory framework for the media in the country. The commission has recommended that the sixty-eight laws which currently govern the functioning of the media should be reviewed over six months and suitably amended. State owned broadcasters, it has suggested, should be converted into independent entities. The report also includes certain recommendations on financial transparency in media enterprises and the statutory application of a code of ethics. Further details at: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\07\28\story_28-7-2013_pg7_7.

16.  SAMSN annual meeting held in Kathmandu, action plans adopted

SAMSN held its annual meeting in Kathmandu between July 21 and 23. The meeting was supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of Germany and adopted a number of action plans in aras of concern such as fair wages and working conditions, safety, ethics and gender fairness. Further details at: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/journalists-at-south-asia-meet-reaffirm-commitment-to-press-freedom-and-social-justice and http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/journalists-at-south-asia-meet-call-for-a-new-deal-on-wages-and-working-conditions.

IFJ Asia-Pacific

SAMSN Members:

Afghan Independent Journalists' Association, Afghanistan
Bangladesh Journalists' Rights Forum (BJRF), Bangladesh
Dhaka Reporters' Unity, Bangladesh
All India Newspapers Employees' Federation (AINEF), India
Indian Journalists' Union (IJU), India
National Union of Journalists India (NUJI), India
Maldives Journalists Association
Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Nepal
National Union of Journalists Nepal (NUJN), Nepal
Nepal Press Union (NPU), Nepal
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Pakistan
Pakistan Press Foundation, Pakistan
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Sri Lanka
Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions (FMETU), Sri Lanka
Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka 
Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF: Human Rights Journalists Forum of Bangladesh)
Media Watch, Bangladesh

ENDS

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