|Tomorrow, November 2 is the International Day to End Impunity. Over the next three weeks, the IFJ will be focusing on five countries where the level of impunity for abusing, jailing, attacking and killing journalists has been high. |
The Philippines is a focus country for this year’s impunity campaign. This year marks the 10th year since the deadliest massacre of journalists. Thirty-two journalists were among the fifty-eight people brutally massacred in Mindanao in the southern Philippines on November 23, 2009. It has now been over ten years, and there has been no justice.
Impunity is not an option, journalists’ have a right to seek justice and safety. The continued abuse journalists’ suffer at the hands of authorities and oppressors must be brought to light.
Hong Kong Protests
The Hong Kong government’s use of colonial era emergency regulations to prohibit face coverings in protests has added another hurdle for press freedom for journalists who are already facing significant challenges in the island territory. The Emergency Regulations Ordinance enacted on October 5, banned any kind of face coverings during protests. Members of the public as well as journalists use the masks as a daily protection against the routine use of tear gas fired by Hong Kong’s police.
While the government claims journalists are exempt, the Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) has received reports that police are ordering journalists’ to remove their masks.
Opposition against “official” press cards
Journalist unions and representative organisations have joined forces to condemn suggestions for a government accreditation scheme for journalists in Hong Kong. Reports have circulated through Hong Kong concerning plans to issue “official” press cards to identify reporters covering protests. Conflicting reports are coming from the government Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, saying that the government had “no intention or plan to start a centralised registration system for journalists” but the Police Public Relations Bureau Acting Chief Superintendent, Kong Wing-Cheung, who told reporters that “police welcome all solution that can identify journalists.”
Smear campaign against HKJA
Ongoing smear campaigns have targeted journalists and unionists in Hong Kong known for speaking out against attacks on media. Since the “Prohibition on Face Covering”, otherwise knowns as the “anti-mask law”, was passed on October 4, media workers and their union, the HKJA, have week endured a targeted campaign of smears and false allegations published online and in newspapers including state newspaper China Daily. The HKJA is among those strongly criticising the colonial era Emergency Regulation Ordinance that has allowed the government to ban the use of face masks.
IFJ condemns police violence against Now News driver
A driver from Now News was targeted with a projectile fired by a police weapon on October 14, before being beaten and detained by police for two hours. According to a statement by Now TV, the Now News driver was hit by a suspected “bean bag” round, allegedly non-lethal ammunition used by police on the morning of October 14 as he walked to his company vehicle. The driver, Mr Lau was hit in the back of the head and fell to the ground. Pictures provided by Now News of Lau on the ground show a press vest next to him.
Hong Kong: Police obstructing reporting of protests
The media continues to be under attack in Hong Kong with one journalist seriously injured by a projectile fired from a police shotgun and others were subjected to pepper spray as ongoing violence by police continued. Reports of police attacking the media have been ongoing since the start of the Hong Kong protests in June 2019. On June 17, 26 journalists testified about abuse by police officers during the protests. Since then, the IFJ has reported that of the 53 media violations recorded during the protests, at least 14 came from police directly assaulting journalists.
Chinese #MeToo journalists detained
Leading journalist and activist who reported on Hong Kong’s protests was arrested in Guangzhou on October 17 by Chinese authorities in Guangzhou, China, for “making trouble and picking quarrels”.
The South China Morning Post reported, the 30-year-old activist and journalist, Huang Xuequin, was arrested by local authorities in Guangzhou on October 17. Huang had written at least two reports on the Hong Kong crisis while she was visiting there in August. On her return to Mainland China the she was summoned by authorities and her travel documents confiscated.
India: Journalist stabbed to death in Andhra Pradesh:
Journalist K Satyanarayana was stabbed and killed in Andrah Pradesh on October 14 by unidentified assailants – just a month after he was attacked in a separate incident. The 45-year-old was working as a reporter for Andhra Jyothi. He had previously filed a report to police concerning an attack in September. It is not yet clear if the incident was work-related.
Australia: Journalists attacked in climate protest in Victoria.
Police have been criticised for using heavy force to disperse protesters at a climate protest in Melbourne on October 29, including pepper spray and police horses. Footage was released showing Channel 7 journalist Paul Dowsley, being forcefully pushed by police as he attempted to cover the protest. A student reporter was also sprayed with pepper spray.
Nepal: Journalist and union leader threatened for reporting.
Nepali journalist and union leader Ajaya Babu Shiwakoti has been the subject of a campaign of threats and surveillance since the publishing of an article on an alleged rape by Nepal’s Speaker in Parliament. Shiwakoti had received threats from various unknown numbers and that groups were “tracking his movements”. He also received information that groups were planning to vandalise his office and assault him.
Indonesia: Rioting football supporters assault journalists.
Journalists covering the football match between PSIM Yogyakarta and Persis Solo at Mandala Krida Stadium in Yogyakarta Special Region on October 21 were attacked by spectators and a footballer from PSIM Yogyakarta. Guntur Aga Putra, a photojournalist for Radar Jogja, was hit on the back of the neck and beaten. Supporters also intimidated him into deleting footage. A second journalist Budi Cahyono, of Goal Indonesia, was similarly intimidated after documenting a fight between PSIM and Persis Solo players during the game.
Pakistan: Journalist sackings.
On October 2, Pakistan news outlets ARY News and AAJ News reportedly terminated the jobs of 150 journalists, justifying the mass lay-offs as part of a downsizing strategy. Economic security is increasingly concerning for journalists in Pakistan. Multiple large-scale terminations have plagued the industry already in 2019.
Malaysia: Job losses.
More than 800 workers are to lose their jobs following the announcement of the closure of the Utusan Malaysia, Mingguan Malaysia and Kosmo! and Ahad media publications on 9 October. The management board of Utusan Group agreed on Monday 7 October to liquidate the company due to its inability to pay workers’ wages and the company’s debts.
Cambodia: New Press Association
A group of Cambodian journalists were issued a license to form a new press association, which the members say will help protect reporters and editors in a challenging media environment. The Cambodian Journalists Alliance, also known as CamboJA, received its license from the Ministry of Information on October 22.
IFJ and battleface launch new insurance for journalists
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world largest organization of journalists, has announced it is partnering with battleface – a provider of specialist insurance benefits and services for travelers visiting or working internationally – to offer an all-inclusive travel insurance to journalists. This new insurance scheme will offer IFJ members protection while travelling and will include coverage in the world’s most challenging places.
Cambodia: Journalists must be part of Cambodia’s Press Law reform
Journalists have called on the Cambodian government to ensure government officials respect journalists’ right to gather information and do their jobs safely. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for urgent changes to the Cambodian Press Law to bring it into line with current global press standards to guarantee freedom of the press and media in Cambodia.
Australia: Media unites in unprecedented campaign to protect country’s press freedom
A nation-wide campaign countering the Australian government’s culture of secrecy has been launched with newspapers across the country publishing redacted front pages on October 21. The Right to Know coalition, made up of broad group of media organisations, journalists and publishers, including the MEAA, is running the campaign against steadily declining press freedom standards in Australia.
Myanmar: Internet shutdowns in Rakhine State
Townships in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been closed off from internet access for nearly three months, blocking access to information to journalists and the public. The government cited security concerns as justification to suspend the telecommunications services.
India: Indian Journalists Union goes to court over internet shutdown
The communications blackout that started on August 5 in Jammu & Kashmir continues to plague Kashmir with the Indian government continuing its defence of the blackout as a mechanism to restore “peace and tranquillity”. But in reality, the blackout has escalated the troubled region’s crisis.
In early October, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) commenced court proceedings to intervene in the internet shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir. On October 16, the court directed the government to produce the orders used to impose the communications shutdown. The court has insisted the government must produce the orders or file its reasons for not placing any order on record.
Cambodia: Court orders new investigation into ex-RFA journalists
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has deferred a verdict in the much anticipated espionage trial of two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalists and controversially ordered a new investigation into the case. In the decision by Justice Im Vannak on October 3, the court noted that the Cambodian authorities need “to investigate and search for other related documents” in the case. Reporter Yeang Sothearin and cameraman Uon Chhin were arrested in November 2017 and charged with espionage for their journalism work with the US government funded outlet Radio Free Asia (RFA).
India: Suing journalists for “fake news”
The Andhra Pradesh government has submitted a proposal to allow department secretaries to sue media organisations for alleged “fake news”. On October 16, the cabinet of Jagan Mohan Reddy empowered secretaries of various departments to file defamatory cases against various, including print, electronic, digital and social media. According to the Indian Journalist Union (IJU), the departments have been guided to take legal action to sue media organisations for “negative” stories or stories they believe to be without evidence. The Chief Minister’s office defended the new proposal stating the decision was made as “secretaries are better placed in monitoring the news, picking up the distortions, giving rejoinders and taking it to the logical conclusion”.