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CJA Newsletter April 2011

Issue No 34 April 2011

By David Spark

Download the newsletter in full as a Word document here: CJA Newsletter April 2011

Murder, violence against Pakistani reporters goes on

Murder and violence against journalists in Pakistan remain a feature of the Commonwealth media scene. Fauzia Shaheen of CJA Pakistan points out how vulnerable are journalists in reporting the conflicts scattered round the country.

Sultan Mehmood Chandio, a Sindhi TV journalist and president of the Mirpurkhas Press Club, was shot dead outside his home on December 5. He left a wife and six children.

Journalists from Hyderabad, Sukkur and other Sindh towns demonstrated against the murder. The following day, two journalists were killed by suicide bombers in Ghalanai in a tribal agency. They both left families behind.

A young Baluchi journalist, Abdul Hameed Hayatan, was kidnapped near the port city of Gwadar on October 25. He was found on November 18, 40 kilometres away, shot in the head and chest..

A student was found dead beside him, along with the message ‘Eid present for the Baluchi people’. The Pakistani authorities and various militias are engaged in a struggle with Baluchi nationalists. Hayatan supported the nationalists.

In October, two freelances writing for Urdu magazines were among ten people who died in a bombing at a Karachi shrine. They visited the shrine weekly.

Peshawar-based Fawad Ali Shah went missing in January. In December, Ilyas Nazar of the Baluchi-language Darwanth was abducted while travelling home to Turbat from Quetta. He was found with many bullet wounds. The Turbat area saw another death in February. A reporter with the Daily Eagle was shot by four motorcyclists ashe returned home.

Mayhem in Chhattisgarh

India’s battles with Maoists and others in eastern India have led to big trouble for journalists seeking to cover the local news or, in one case, to protect colleagues against insurgent threats. Three reporters got death threats in December from government supporters in Chhattisgarh. A Tehelka website reporter was charged for pointing to flaws in a case against an alleged bomber. Another reporter was accused of sedition after attending a tribal peoples’ convention.

More disturbing were a series of skirmishes in Chattisgarh in March when journalists and government officials were confronted by local security agents.

The International Federation of Journalists says media had reported that houses in the tribal village of Tarmedia had been razed by security men, in reprisal for a Maoist attack on a patrol. The district administration set up a team to determine the facts and take help to the villages. With the team were journalists including Suresh Mahapatra, editor of Bastar Impact.

On the way to Tarmedia, the team was intercepted by a gang who reportedly included police. The government men were obliged to turn back. One of their cars was damaged in a seemingly deliberate collision.

The journalists were allowed to drive on, only to learn of an arrest warrant against them for allegedly ramming their vehicle into a truck. A top official rescued them but they may still get arrested.

Another team set out for Tarmdeia. It was headed by Swami Agnivesh, a striking, orange-clad figire who made his name freeing children from bondage in stone quarries. His team was ambushed,too, the journalists with him losing their laptops and cameras (which were later returned).

Agnivesh set out again next day armed with an assurance of safe passage from Chief Minister Raman Singh. This time the ambush was by local people in the Domapal area. A superintendent of police was pushed aside and injured. Zee TV correspondent Naresh Mishra was beaten up.

Mark Tully told the CJA in London last year that the local police, who are independent of central government control, are a major obstacle to peace in Chattisgarh and neighbouring areas. The March incidents support his point of view.

Rwandan woman editor gets 17 years in jail

Agnes Uwimana Nkusi, editor of the bimonthly Umurabyo, was sentenced to 17 years in February for inciting disobedience and denying the 1994 genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi population. Reporter Saidath Mukakibibi got seven years. They had been detained since |uly after they published a series of opinion pieces which alleged growing divisions in the army and spoke up for Hutu victims of the genocide. One piece was accompanied by a photograph of President Kagame with a Nazi swastika in the background.

Ironically Rwanda became in January the 146th UN member state to have its freedom of expression appraised. The genocide ideology law is being reviewed.

New voices speak for Africa – and the Caribbean

Issa Mansaray from Sierra Leone and two other editors are recruiting reporters and interns for The AfricaPaper, a bi-weekly and website which they hope will be the voice of the African continent. Its focus is on serious journalism, it encourages investigative reporting, it is based in the United States and published by the Africa Institute for International Reporting. E-mail: theafricapaper@yahoo.com and africapaper1@hotmail.co.

Dr Kris Rampersad launches in January a new service on Caribbean issues. E-mail: krismaco2002 @ yahoo.com

Times of India man pleads passionately for Burmese freedom

A CJA-sponsored talk-in on Burma was optimistic about its future after the recent elections. Former Burmese MP Dr Tint Swe thought Dr Suu Kyi’s release a sign that the generals felt they could not achieve national reconciliation without her. Bhaskar Roy of the Times of India made a passionate plea for support for the democratic movement for a free Burma.

British coverage of other countries has diminished

Leading British newspapers carry less foreign coverage than 30 years ago, even though they have more print space and carry more stories in total, reports Britain’s Media Studies Trust. A year or so ago, a broadcaster, Phil Harding, made a similar report about television.

The MST study looks in detail at four dailies, The Guardian and The Daily Mirror (foreign stories down a third), and The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail (down a half). However, the papers have maintained the number of foreign stories on front pages since 1989. Foreign coverage in the Telegraph and Guardian is also sustained by multi-page foreign sections.

There is no longer the Cold War to give foreign coverage a point of reference. Coverage of India and China has not grown as it might have done. Foreign stories are increasingly UK-related – at the Telegraph this trend has been attributed to the purchase of the paper by the Barclay Brothers.

Stationing journalists abroad is costly, so their numbers have dwindled, and the amount of well-informed, level-headed coverage has dwindled with them. Campaigners, especially non-government organisations, have acquired new influence. NGOs with a special case to make about foreign countries write for the UK newspapers and provide information and facilities for UK journalists.

And there are new foreign-based suppliers of foreign news. Googlenews provides a conduit to Britain for news suppliers from all over the world. But the British read little of their foreign news on the internet.

Fewer full-time correspondents mean fewer scoops, a gap suddenly filled, if in small measure, by the WikiLeaks website with its access to material embarrassing to governments.

On the plus side, some papers such as the Financial Times and the New York Times find that foreign coverage pays. Some coverage, on the BBC for instance, is paid for from public funds. New international subjects such as the environment and global warming create new demand.

An ancient relic springs back to life

After five years of research, writing and revision, the fourth edition of CJA Newsletter editor David Spark’s book Practical Newspaper Reporting has just been published. (Amazon price £20.89 a copy). It first came out in 1966, when half was written by Geoffrey Harris, then editor of the Harrow Observer.

The fourth edition nearly ended before it began. The original publisher, a branch of Heinemann, gave up newspaper books soon after a new edition of ‘Practical Newspaper Reporting’ was suggested. Routledge and the Oxford University Press both declined to step in. So, at first, did the other leading UK publisher of media books, Sage Publications. However, Sage’s nay-saying commissioning editor left a month later; and his successor Mila Steele decided in favour, brushing aside the argument that she should not be reviving an ancient relic.

As the new publisher, Sage wanted a completely new book. David Spark had to rewrite every chapter, bring in new examples and quotations, and deal with the increased importance of religion as well as the internet. Moreover, there was a lot of new ground to cover, for eager, highly educated journalist-readers, in Britain and the English-speaking world. Experts quoted in the book include N.Ravi of The Hindu and Nigerian educator Dayo Duyile.

Martin Mulligan of the Financial Times reports that there are copies – of earlier editions — in the chief news-agency office in Beijing

News from round the Commonwealth

AUSTRALIA

Ross Dunkley, Australian founder and editor of the Myanmar Times weekly, was released on bail on March 29, having been arrested on February 10. He has been accused of assaulting, drugging and detaining a prostitute, which he denies. In the background are negotiations between Dunkley and his government-linked Burmese partners over the Times’s future. One of the partners, Tin Tun Oo has taken over Dunkley’s job. Also at issue is the role that the media will play in the new Burma after the election.

BANGLADESH

Mahmudur Rahman, editor of the opposition daily Amar Desh, was released on March 17, after nine months in prison for contempt.

CAMEROON

The newspaper Paroles was banned In March and its editor Jean-Marie Tchatchouang ordered to pay 2,600 dollars in fine and damages, by a court of three magistrates in Douala. Paroles had alleged mismanagement of a transport company.

KENYA

Sam Ooko, who fell victim to the violence that followed the last Kenyan election, has sent a message about his recovery. He attended two CJA conferences and forerly represented the CJA in Kenya.

MALAWI

The Media Institute of Southern Africa expressed in February its shock at a new bill empowering the Miniister of Information to ban publications

MALAYSIA

The Home Ministry in March reprimanded The Star for an article about the impounding of 5,000 Bibles in Malay. [In Malaysia, all Malays are supposed to be Muslim.]

Journalists union president Hata Watari was subjected to a ‘domestic inquiry’ by his employer Utusan Malaysia after he complained about political interference.

MALDIVES

Police summoned two journalists from the daily Haveeru for questioning in March after the paper carried news of a pornographic video racket.

MOZAMBIQUE

Three policemen threatened in February to kill Victor Muvale who writes for the Beira daily, Diario de Mocambique. He reported they had beaten a young man they found without an identity card.

NAMIBIA

Max Hamata, editor of the weekly tabloid Informante, resigned in November after publishing a story about ex-President Nujoma having prostate cancer. He was overwhelmed with threats after the article was published

NIGERIA

The federal government has given the go-ahead for community radio.

PAKISTAN

A well respected veteran journalist at the Financial Daily, Jamil Ahmed Siddiqui, was knocked down and killed by a car on October 4. Leading trade unionist and anti-censorship campaigner Minhai Barna died in January age 88. He started as a journalist in Mumbai and was best known for his role in a ten-day strike in 1970 in protest against low wages.

The Rural Media Network Pakistan held a workshop in January on the safety of journalists in conflict zones. It pointed to the pressure from sectarian groups to get coverage and to the dangers in covering honour killings.

SIERRA LEONE

The Attorney-General in February threatened an action for criminal libel against Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, publisher of Awareness Times, over an article headlined What’s the colour of the APC leader’s underwear? [The APC is the ruling All People Congress]

Four journalists were detained in December when they pursued allegations of fraud at the Ministry of Lands. The minister accused them of possessing a classified document illegally.

SINGAPORE

The High Court sentenced 76-year-old British journalist Alan Shadrake in November to six weeks in prison for contempt. In a book about the death sentence called Once a Jolly Hangman, Shadrake had questioned Singapore courts’ impartiality.

SRI LANKA

Defence Secretary and President’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is engaged in a libel tussle with the Sunday Leader, concerning articles published when Lasantha Wickrematunga, who was murdered in January 2009, was The Leader’s editor. The case concerns aircraft purchases and faulty identity cards. No one has been charged with Wickrematunga’s murder nor with that of Mayilvaganam Nimalarajan, a leading Tamil journalist murdered ten years ago.

Men armed with iron rods and clubs attacked three journalists covering the homecoming of New Left Front leader Wickremabahu Karunaratne in December. In the UK, Dr Karunaratne condemned the erosion of law and media freedom in Sri Lanka. The government called his speeches ‘traitorous’.

The office of a website LankaENews was set on fire early on January 31, destroying clmputers, furniture and valuable books

SWAZILAND

Prime Minister Dlamini threatened in March to prosecute one Gangadza Masilela [not necessarily his real name] who has built up a large anti-government following on Facebook. More worryingly for an authoritarian government only too aware of what’s going on at the other end of the continent, Facebook scribes are calling for an uprising on April 12.

UGANDA

Police detained for two days in March a correspondent for the Central Broadcasting Service, Yoweri Musisi, on a charge of giving false information. Musisi had alleged lawlessness had increased in the Buwama area south of Kampala. The CBS is owned by the king of Buganda who has been skirmishing with the Museveni government for a long time.

VANUATU

A group of men led by cabinet minister Harry Iauko attacked the Vanuatu Daily Post’s publisher Marc Neil Jones on March 4.The minister, who complained about maladministration allegations in the Post, watched as Jones was hit about the head.

ZAMBIA

Opposition leader Michael Sata stormed into an editorial meeting of the Zambia Daily Mail, a government newspaper, in February. The Mail had reported that chiefs in Luapula province had decided not to support him in this year’s election.

Riots in January marked the revival of controversy over the Barotseland agreement of 1964. Barotseland is the western end of Zambia. Before independence in 1964 it was a protectorate ruled by the Litunga (king). The Barotseland agreement made it part of the new independent Zambia.

The agreement gave the Litunga some autonomy. But President Kaunda was having none of that. Once a decent period was past he reneged on the agreement. Which was OK until January.when ‘seditious statements fuelling violence and riotous behaviour’ were broadcast on Radio Lyambai. Police forced the radio off the air by confiscating computers. In February Minister of Information Ronnie Shikapwasha refused to let it reopen,until investigations into how it came to be broadcasting those seditious materials were complete.

ZIMBABWE

President’s wife Grace Mugabe and bank governor Gono are suing The Standard for £10 million over a WikiLeak accusing them of being involved in diamond trafficking.

Six days after the Daily News resumed publication on March 18, one of its reporters, Xolisani Ncube, was attacked by supporters of Prime Minister Tsvangirai.

Download the newsletter in full as a Word document here: CJA Newsletter April 2011

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