E-Bulletin of South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN)
ចេញផ្សាយ​ ថ្ងៃទី 19 April, 2015   ម៉ោង 16:36

Welcome to the monthly e-bulletin of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN). The next bulletin will be sent on May 15, 2015, and contributions are most welcome.

Let others know what you are doing or seek solidarity and support from other SAMSN members on your campaigns and activities. To contribute, email Ujjwal Acharya at: ifjsouthasia@gmail.com

Please feel free to distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues and friends in the media.

SAMSN welcomes contributions to the SAMSN weekly blog – see it here.

In this bulletin:

1. Second blogger brutally killed in Bangladesh
2. Impunity breakthrough in Pakistan as convicted killer captured in Karachi
3. Indian Supreme Court guarantees free speech online
4. Three journalists detained while covering protests in the Maldives

5. Sri Lanka police in Jaffna criticised for arrest and intimidation of journalists
6. Afghanistan’s Supreme Court sentences journalist’s killer
7. SAMSN Blog: Media In India’s North East: Tripura
8. Tribunals set up to investigate journalist murders in Balochistan
9. Pakistan mulls censorship of TV contents
10. Nepali journalist found dead in suspicious circumstances
11. SAMSN Blog: Peace in Rolpa brings a brighter dawn for women
12. Is Bhutan’s Media Freedom Really Slipping?
13. India open to consider allowing FM radios to broadcast news
14. Bangladesh: Freedom of expression: A myth or a right?
1. Second blogger brutally killed in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is becoming increasingly dangerous for secular bloggers. Md Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, 27, was brutally murdered, by three assailants on Monday, March 30 in Dhaka, as he walked to work. Oyasiqur was a well-known blogger who used different pseudonyms to write on popular blogs. He was also known for writing several notes opposing irrational religious beliefs, superstitions and radical Islamists on his Facebook profile.
Two of the attackers were immediately caught by locals and handed over to the police. In April, four men were changed with the murder of Rahman. The two assailants arrested at the scene, Zikrullah and Ariful, have had preliminary murder charges lodged against them, and the remaining two were charged in absentia. Read more here.
Rahman’s murder took place only a month after secular blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death by extremists in Dhaka. Oyasiqur admired Roy and changed his Facebook profile picture to #iamavijit and cover photo to #WordsCannotBeKilled following his murder. Read more here.
To better understand why bloggers are being targeted in Bangladesh, read this interview with Imran H Sarker, head of the Blogger and Online Activists Network in Bangladesh; and this write-up by Shahidul Alam.

2. Impunity breakthrough in Pakistan as convicted killer captured in Karachi
In March 2014, Faisal Mehmood, was convicted in absentia of the murder of Wali Khan Babar. On March 11, 2015 he was arrested in a significant breakthrough in Pakistan’s fight against impunity for journalist killings.
On March 1, 2014, Faisal Mehmood (also known as Faisal Mota) and Kamran (alias Zeeshan) were convicted in absentia and given a death sentence by Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Court in Kandhkot for the murder of the respected Geo News reporter. The verdict marked only the second time in Pakistan history that the murderers of a journalist were brought to justice.
Babar was shot dead on January 13, 2011, in the Liaquatabad area of Karachi on his way to home from work. He was murdered after his story on gang violence aired on Geo TV. During the murder trial, nine witnesses were murdered including policemen and prosecutors and the trial had to be moved several times due to ongoing security threats. Read more here.

3. Indian Supreme Court guarantees free speech online
The Supreme Court on March 24 decided to strike out Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act as it contradiction with the rights of freedom of expression. Section 66A, which had been in effect since 2009, criminalized freedom of expression. It included a vaguely worded provision that could see anyone convicted of sending messages deemed ‘grossly offensive’ or ‘menacing’ over the internet or other communication devices, sentenced for up to three years jail.
The amendment to the IT Act was described as draconian as the definitions of offences were ‘open-ended & undefined’ and since its adoption, Section 66A has been ‘misused by several state governments to stifle expression of dissent against the ruling establishments’. Numerous people were arrested under Section 66A, many as a result of Facebook posts, or simply ‘liking’ Facebook posts. The bench of Supreme Court Justices, including J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F. Nariman, said: “It is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right”. Read more here.
Also see related SAMSN blog by Geeta Seshu: What Next For The Section 66A Cases?

4. Three journalists detained while covering protests in the Maldives
Three journalists were arrested and detained in the Maldives while covering opposition demonstrations on March 24 and 25, 2015 in the capital, Male. On March 24, Mohamed Niyaz, a cameraman for Channel One TV was arrested. Also on March 25, two media workers for Raajje TV, which is known for its pro-opposition stance, were arrested. Mohamed Wisam and Adam Zareer were each was arrested ‘for obstructing police duties’. The Maldivian Police accused Niyaz of the offence because he aimed his camera light directly towards the police officers while he was filming. Read more here.

5. Sri Lanka police in Jaffna criticised for arrest and intimidation of journalists
The Sri Lankan police charged freelance journalist N Logathayalan on Wednesday, April 8 in Jaffna following a report he authored about the alleged assault of a schoolgirl by Sri Lankan police officers in Jaffna in Sri Lanka’s north. Logathayalan was taken into custody and produced before the Point Pedro Court where the Sri Lankan police requested to extend custody until April 17. This was granted, but the journalist was subsequently released on April 9 on personal bail. He is due to appear in court on May 29.
In a separate event, three Jaffna-based journalists were intimidated by two police officers on Tuesday, April 7. T Vinojith of Thinakural daily, T Pirgatheepan a Colombo-based journalist and freelance-journalist Majorapiriyan were stopped by two drunken officers in police jerseys and were asked to show their press cards. When the journalists questioned the officers, they produced knives and chased the journalists until they reached the Jaffna police station. Read more here.

6. Afghanistan’s Supreme Court sentences journalist’s killer
Afghanistan’s Supreme Court ruled that the police officer convicted of murdering Associated Press photographer, Anja Niedringhaus, should serve 20 years in prison. The final sentence for the officer, a commander named Naqibullah, was reduced from the death sentence imposed by a lower court in 2014.
Naqibullah opened fire on Niedringhaus and AP correspondent Kathy Gannon without warning on April 4, 2014, as the two were covering the first round of the country’s presidential election outside the city of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan. Read more here.

7. SAMSN Blog: Media In India’s North East: Tripura
The media in Tripura is still dependent on the government for financial help, giving them an unprecedented upper hand to control press freedom in the state. As long as the political party in power is satisfied, the media is deemed to be okay otherwise there is an incredible pressure on the journalists as they have to not only endure insults but also face demotion in rank as well as being refused accreditation, writes Prasanta Chakraborty in the SAMSN Blog.

8. Tribunals set up to investigate journalist murders in Balochistan
The Balochistan provincial government has established two judicial tribunals to investigate six journalist murders in the Balochistan, Pakistan, between 2011 and 2013. According to a statement from the Home Department in the provincial capital of Quetta on April 1, the two tribunals will work in the Khuzdar and Makran districts to investigate the murder cases of a number of journalists, naming those responsible and recommending measures to prevent such murders of journalists in the future. The murder victims to be investigated will be Abdul Haq Baloch, Javed Ahmed and Munir Shakil from Khuzdar district and Abdul Razzaq, Abudost Rind and Ilyas Nazar from Makran district, who were killed from 2011 to 2013. Read more here.

9. Pakistan mulls censorship of TV contents
The Pakistan government is currently debating an amendment to empower the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) to block the transmission of TV contents. According a report published by Dawn, the government had discussed a possible amendment to the PERMA Act (2007), which has been drafted and shared with some officials and legal experts.
The amendments, if implemented, would empower the PERMA to ‘de-link’ the signals of specific television channel towards any satellite, which would ensure that no cable operator or television set gets the broadcast. The PERMA is state authority, which in past has acted arbitrarily to impose suspension and heavy fines on television stations for their contents. Read more here.

10. Nepali journalist found dead in suspicious circumstances
Journalist Ram Prasad Bhattarai ‘Sachin’ was found dead in Itahari of Sunsari in eastern Nepal on March 25. Bhattarai went missing on March 25 while on a personal trip to Itahari and his badly beaten body was found later that night on the side of the Koshi Highway, with visible head injuries. His body was not identified until March 29. Bhattarai, a 26-year-old assistant editor for the Baruwa Times in Udayapur district and a contributor to the Ujyaalopatra daily of Biratnagar and the Aaujar daily of Dharan. Read more here.

11. SAMSN Blog: Peace in Rolpa brings a brighter dawn for women
Devi Gurung was married when she was just 14 years old and at 16, she gave birth to a baby girl. It was during the time of Maoist insurgency and her district, Rolpa, was the epicenter of the conflict. But Gurung’s life improved when she encountered Radio Jaljala, the first FM radio station of the district which was established in 2008. After getting an opportunity for training, she pursued a career in media. Read more of Gurung’s story.

12. Is Bhutan’s media freedom really slipping?
Bhutan has slipped from its previous year’s ranking of 92 to 104th place in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders. But does that mean that freedom of information is on the decline in this new democracy? Surprisingly, the county’s government-controlled newspaper, Kuensel, has suggested it is. Read more here.

13. India open to consider allowing FM radios to broadcast news
India’s Parliament, Lok Sabha was informed on March 20 that the Indian government is ready to consider proposals to allow private FM radio channels to broadcast current news under certain conditions.
Currently, private FM channels are not allowed to broadcast news under the FM Radio (phase-II) policy guidelines. The minister of state for information and broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, said this is because there is no mechanism yet to monitor it and anything anti-national may go un-noticed.. Read more here.

14. Bangladesh: Freedom of expression: A myth or a right?
Is freedom of expression really a possibility when legislation when legislation such as the Information and Communication Technology Act exist? Under Section 57 of the Act, it is an offence for any person to deliberately publish on a website or on other electronic form fake and obscene things, anything that may induce a person to do immoral acts, cause defamation, deteriorate law and order, tarnish the image of the state or a person or hurt the religious sentiment of the people. Yet freedom of expression is guaranteed in Article 39 of the Consitution of Bangladesh. Read here how Bangladesh attempts to balance the two pieces of legislation.