Stop harassing Rappler, media advocacy groups tell Duterte

Two global media freedom advocacy groups accuse the Philippine government of trying to “silence” Rappler and its journalists. Image: Rappler

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have written a joint open letter to the prosecutor-general of the Philippines calling for an end to the orchestrated harassment of the news website Rappler and its editor, Maria Ressa, which began more than a year ago.

The website, which has more than 3.7 million followers on Facebook alone, has been under constant bureaucratic and legal attack by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Department of Justice earlier this month said that it planned to file unspecified tax evasion charges against Rappler and the website’s founder and executive editor, award-winning Maria Ressa.

READ MORE: The Rappler story: Journalism with an impact

The two media freedom advocacy groups said the government was trying to “silence” the website and its journalists.

Later it filed on November 9 a criminal case against two Rappler executives for allegedly avoiding paying  133.8 million pesos ($9.6 million) in tax.

-Partners-

“We urge you to cease this campaign of intimidation and harassment against Rappler, both for the sake of respecting press freedom and for your government’s international credibility,” said Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists in the joint open letter.

Rappler publisher Maria Ressa could face up to 10 years in prison for tax evasion. Noel Celis /RSF/AFP

‘Fearless reporting’
Rappler had said after the tax evasion charges were first reported that: “We are not at all surprised by the decision, considering how the Duterte administration has been treating Rappler for its independent and fearless reporting.

“We maintain that this is a clear form of continuing intimidation and harassment against us, and an attempt to silence journalists.”

The website said there was no legal basis for the action. The open letter said:

Mr Richard Anthony Fadullon
Prosecutor-General
Department of Justice
Ermita, Manila 1000
Republic of the Philippines
Via email: communications@doj.gov.ph

Dear Prosecutor General Fadullon,

We at the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders, two independent non-profit press freedom organisations, ask that you and your office end the politicised persecution of Philippine news site Rappler.

The Department of Justice earlier this month said that it planned to file tax evasion charges against Rappler and the website’s founder and executive editor, Maria Ressa. The charges relate to a company bond sale in 2015 that, according to reports, resulted in 162.5 million pesos (euros 2,7 million) in financial gains. The Justice Department’s statement did not indicate how much Rappler and Ressa allegedly owed in taxes.

Ressa has denied the allegation and said that Rappler is compliant with all Philippine tax laws, including the transaction in question. She said she believes the legal threat is an attempt to silence her news outlet’s critical reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s government. CPJ and RSF have documented in the past year how authorities have retaliated against Rappler’s coverage, including by banning its reporters from the presidential palace and referring to the site as “fake news” and “biased.”

The Department of Justice’s announcement that it will seek to file tax evasion charges is strikingly and worryingly similar to previous legal harassment of Rappler. The news site is still fighting a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) order to revoke its registration. The Court of Appeals ruled in July that the SEC had erred in its move to revoke Rappler’s certificate of incorporation, but the outlet’s motion to fully annul the order is still pending.

We view the tax evasion charges, which carry potential 10-year prison penalties under local law, as a clear and present threat to press freedom. As Ressa has pointed out, the charges could potentially threaten foreign investors who use similar mechanisms, and could thus damage the Philippine economy

We urge you to cease this campaign of intimidation and harassment against Rappler, both for the sake of respecting press freedom and for your government’s international credibility.

Sincerely,
Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists

Christophe Deloire
Secretary-General
Reporters Without Borders

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Six activists detained for staging palm oil shipboard rally, says Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner reading “Drop Dirty Palm Oil Now” at a Wilmar International palm oil refinery in Bitung, North Sulawesi, in September. Image: Jurnasyanto Sukarno/Greenpeace Indonesia

By Ivany Atina Arbi in Jakarta

Six Greenpeace activists have reportedly been detained by the captain of the tanker Stolt Tenacity for staging a rally against global forests destruction, particularly in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, and in Papua New Guinea.

The ship was transporting crude palm oil, owned by the world’s biggest palm oil trader Wilmar International, from a refinery in Dumai in Riau to Europe.

According to a statement released by Greenpeace Indonesia at the weekend, six Greenpeace activists from Indonesia, Germany, Britain, France, Canada and the United States staged the peaceful rally in the Cadiz Bay near Spain.

READ AND WATCH MORE: Greenpeace protesters detained after boarding palm oil tanker off Spain + video

They managed to unfurl banners that read “Save Our Rainforest” and “Drop Dirty Palm Oil” on board the tanker before being detained by its captain.

“We have informed the tanker’s captain through VHF marine radio channels about the peaceful and antiviolence action […] and asked him to free the activists and let them continue the peaceful rally,” said Greenpeace campaigner Hannah Martin.

-Partners-

She added that Wilmar was the main supplier of palm oil to food giant Mondelez. Based on Greenpeace’s recent investigation, palm oil suppliers to Mondelez had allegedly destroyed roughly 70,000 hectares of forests across Southeast Asia in the past two years. Mondelez is the producer of Oreo cookies, among others.

Greenpeace, therefore, urged Mondelez to stop its trading with Wilmar until the later managed to produce palm oil without destroying forests.

Sustainability criteria
Mondelez has dismissed such allegations, saying the company had been prioritising suppliers that meet sustainability criteria that allow retailers and customers to trace their products back to the mill.

“We’re asking our direct suppliers to call on their upstream suppliers to map and monitor the plantations where oil palm is grown, so we can drive further traceability. We’re also excluding 12 companies from our supply chain as a result of breaches,” the company said in a statement last week, refusing to reveal the 12 companies.

Wilmar had earlier urged Greenpeace to take “collaborative action” with the company if it wanted to improve the palm oil industry.

In its statement concerning Greenpeace’s similar rally in September in Wilmar’s refinery in Bitung, North Sulawesi, Wilmar said the protest was a criminal act of trespassing and vandalism as well as a safety risk to the activists as well as Wilmar staff.

“No organisation is above the law and we urge Greenpeace to adopt a collaborative mindset and work with the palm oil industry to take genuine and positive action.”

Wilmar also disputed Greenpeace’s claims about the companies it sourced palm oil from.

“It must be clarified that, out of the 25 companies listed, Wilmar is buying from 13 supplier groups, not 18 as alleged in the report,” the company said, adding that 11 of the 13 companies have been put on Wilmar’s grievance list.

“Greenpeace’s allegation that Wilmar is failing at monitoring our supply chain is based on a willful lack of understanding of our work on the ground.”

Ivany Atina Arbi is a Jakarta Post journalist.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

RSF condemns ‘tax evasion’ charge used to harass Philippine website

Rappler president and media freedom advocate Maria Ressa … now the target of a personal lawsuit by the Duterte government. Image: RSF/Joël Saget/AFP

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the tax evasion charges that the Philippine Department of Justice  is bringing against the independent news website Rappler and its president, journalist Maria Ressa.

It has called for an end to this blatant judicial harassment.

Rappler and Maria Ressa are to be accused of tax evasion and failure to file tax returns in 2015, according to the indictment announced by the DOJ on November 9 and due to be filed in court this week, RSF (Reprters Without Borders) said in a statement.

Free press in the Philippines. Image: RSF/Ted Aljibe /AFP

Ressa could be facing up to 10 years in prison under section 255 of the tax code.

This is the first time that Ressa is being personally prosecuted in the war that President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has been waging against her and against the country’s leading independent news website.

The announcement came amid yet another sign of international recognition for Ressa in Paris during the weekend, when 12 heads of state and government undertook to take action in defence of “information and democracy” on the basis of the declaration drafted by an international panel created at RSF’s initiative, of which she is one of the 25 members.

-Partners-

“These crude ploys that the Philippine authorities are using against Rappler could be dismissed as bordering on the absurd if it were not for the serious threat they pose to this symbol of press freedom,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“This harassment is clearly designed to bring down a media outlet that dares to provide investigative coverage of President Duterte’s policies.

‘Persecution unacceptable’
“The government regards its founder, Maria Ressa, as someone to be crushed because of her determined defence of the freedom to inform. This persecution is unacceptable and must stop.”

The DOJ bases the indictment on the Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) that Rappler Holding Corporation, the company that owns the website, issued in 2015 in order to raise international funding.

The indictment claims that Rappler gained 162.4 million pesos [2.7 million euros] from the transaction, which it failed to declare in its tax return. In reality, the PDRs were just a fund-raising mechanism, with no transaction and no profit.

“The DOJ nonetheless claims an insane 844 percent shortfall in Rappler’s tax declaration and a tax liability of 108 million pesos (1.8 million euros),” said Bastard.

Repeated attacks
For more than a year, Rappler has been the target of repeated attacks designed to intimidate its journalists.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced in January that it was revoking Rappler’s licence on the grounds that it had violated a ban on foreign ownership of media outlets, spuriously claiming that, by issuing PDRs to raise funds, it had sold some of its stock to foreign investors.

RSF immediately referred this unacceptable attack on media independence to the United Nations, UNESCO and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In response to Rappler’s appeal against the summary revocation of its licence, a court ruled in July that the website should be allowed “reasonable time” to resolve any dispute about its financial structure.

The Rappler reporter assigned to covering the Malacañang presidential palace was meanwhile denied entry to the palace in February on Duterte’s personal orders.

And in March, the authorities announced that they were reviving a previously dismissed defamation action as well as preparing a tax evasion complaint.

The Philippines is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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‘Victim blaming’ in latest Indonesian uni sex abuse case angers thousands

By Sri Wahyuni and Evi Mariani in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

An leading Indonesian university’s initial response to a recent sexual assault case allegedly involving two of its students has angered thousands of people, who have signed a petition demanding that the Yogyakarta institution punish the student perpetrator and the campus officials who had penalised the student victim.

In less than 24 hours, the online petition protesting against the 70-year-old Gadjah Mada University (UGM) on change.org had garnered more than 55,000 signatories by Wednesday morning, with more people signing every second to reach more than 167,000 signatories by mid-afternoon today.

“We demand that the UGM rector, the advisory board and the Research, Technology and Higher Education Ministry to strengthen regulations on preventing sexual assault and law enforcement against sex offenders,” the petition states as one of its demands.

READ MORE: An alumna at UGM appeals to the university to be a pioneer against sexual abuse

A separate call to a rally on Thursday has been circulating on social media to demand that the university thoroughly investigate the case and create a safe campus environment.

The call says that UGM is facing “a sexual violence emergency”, pointing out that the latest case was not the university’s first and that UGM has not been siding with victims.

-Partners-

On November 5, Balairung published an investigative report based on the testimony of a female student under the pseudonym Agni, who gave the UGM student magazine permission to publish the full details of her account.

Agni said that a fellow student had assaulted her during a community service project (KKN) at a Maluku village on June 30, 2017. The KKN is a kind of field school programme that lasts several months, during which the students live with local families in the target village.

Homestay lodging
Agni said she was visiting a villager until late evening at their home where fellow KKN student “HS” was staying, so she decided to spend the night at HS’ homestay and return to her own lodging in the morning.

They had to share a single room that night, Agni said, but that they were separated by some distance in the room. She also said she slept fully clothed and still in her headscarf.

Early the following morning, she said she felt HS groping her, opening her top, kissing her breasts and inserting his fingers in her genitalia. She froze in momentary shock until she felt pain that prompted her to yell at HS, “What are you doing!”

Agni said she immediately reported the incident to the KKN supervisor and the UGM Community Service Department (DKPM), which managed the programme. The university officials cut short HS’ programme and sent him back to Yogyakarta, but Agni said they also blamed her for the incident, with one official telling her to “repent”, reported Balairung.

Agni said that after the assault, she often felt scared at night and ended up staying awake all night. She also had suicidal thoughts, she said as quoted by Balairung.

In November 2017, Agni learned that she received a C for her KKN assignment, while her peers on the same programme received an A or a B. Agni said she asked about the reason for her low grade, and that the KKN management responded that she had to share the blame for the incident that “embarrassed UGM” in front of the local villagers.

In the Balairung article, a university official who declined to be named said that the student press should not be in a rush to call Agni a victim. “Like a cat given salted fish, it will at least sniff it and might even eat the fish, right?” Balairung quoted the official as saying in reference to Agni.

Low grade reported
In December 2017, Agni reported the C she received for her KKN assignment and the circumstances surrounding it to her academic department, the Social and Political Sciences Faculty (Fisipol).

The Fisipol’s cooperation, alumni and research deputy dean, Poppy Sulistyaning Winanti, and the deputy dean for academics and student affairs, Wawan Mas’udi, followed up on her case to the top administrative level.

An inter-departmental independent investigation team was formed that recommended Agni’s KKN grade be revise from C to A/B. The team also recommended that the perpetrator write an apology and attend a mandatory counseling session for sexual abusers.

On Tuesday, in response to the Balairung article, Fisipol UGM posted a statement on its Instagram account, @fisipolugm, reiterating its commitment to “side with victim”.

“With this, Fisipol UGM states that we side with the survivor to find justice and a thorough solution to the problem,” the statement said.

It also said that steps had been taken to deal with “Agni’s” case, including a letter it sent to the rector on December 22, 2017, that asked the university to manage the case thoroughly.

Fisipol said that the rector arranged a closed meeting with relevant parties in response to its letter, and agreed during the meeting to set up an investigation team that involved several departments. The rector also agreed to sanction the DKPM officials for their “ignorance” in their initial handling of the incident until “the survivor” reported the case to Fisipol.

Trauma counselling
During the same meeting, Fisipol said it agreed to engage psychologists to provide trauma counseling for “the survivor”.

The statement continued that, after an intensive investigation, the team submitted its recommendations to the rector on July 20, 2018, which included punishment for the perpetrator, protection and support for the victim and improvements to managing the KKN programme.

“This is why Fisipol UGM is pushing for a thorough and speedy management of the case by implementing the follow-up measures as recommended by the investigation team,” the statement said, ending with a call to all parties to create a campus that was free from sexual abuse.

Separately, UGM public relations and protocol head Ariani said the university would continue its work to make sure that the victim received protection and justice.

“Next, UGM will soon take the necessary real steps to take the case to the legal domain,” Ariana said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Other UGM cases
In 2016, a sexual abuse case that involved several female victims among Fisipol students rocked the university. The perpetrator, EH, was a respected lecturer and the head of the international relations department at the time of the incident.

EH was stripped of his positions, but is still officially employed as a UGM lecturer.

The investigative report in the Balairung student magazine also cited other unresolved sexual assault cases at UGM.

Sexual assault at universities

Many commentators believe that the incidents of sexual assault at universities that have emerged in the public eye are a mere tip of the iceberg.

In 2008, the University of Indonesia (UI) Law School received sexual assault reports from several students on a lecturer, TN.

As in the case of UGM’s EH, TN also sexually assaulted his students during one-on-one thesis consultations. TN was later dismissed from UI but he was still being interviewed by the media.

Women’s empowerment and rights activist Damairia Pakpahan said she had represented a sexual assault victim of a humanities lecturer at UGM, but that the case did not go anywhere.

The reporters are Jakarta Post journalists.

#kitaAGNI

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Scrap workers deal with Saudi Arabia following execution, says Jakarta NGO

Migrant Care activists hold a rally in protest against the execution of an Indonesian migrant worker in front of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Jakarta on March 20, 2018. Image: Seto Wardhana/Jakarta Post

By Dian Septiari in Jakarta

The Migrant CARE advocacy group has called on Indonesia’s Manpower Ministry to cancel a recent agreement with Saudi Arabia to send Indonesian migrant workers to the kingdom in limited numbers, following the execution of Indonesian worker Tuti Tursilawati on Monday.

Migrant CARE executive director Wahyu Susilo strongly condemned the execution of Tuti by Saudi authorities and urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to take significant diplomatic measures in protest against Riyadh, such as scrapping a pilot project to send a limited number of migrant workers to Saudi Arabia.

“President Jokowi must cancel the agreement between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia on the One Channel System [because the execution is] proof that Saudi Arabia does not fulfill the terms and conditions pertaining to the protection of the rights of migrant domestic workers,” Wahyu said in a statement.

READ MORE: The Saudi state-sponsored murder of Khashoggi updates

The assured protection of migrant workers’ rights was an explicit requirement in documents signed by Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri and his Saudi counterpart Ahmed Sulaiman Al Rajhi on October 11, the rights activist said.

The One Channel System was a scheme agreed upon by the labour ministers that would allow Indonesia to send a certain number of workers to the Middle Eastern kingdom, bypassing a 2015 moratorium.

-Partners-

Tuti was sentenced to death in 2011 for beating her employer to death with a stick in self-defence against attempted rape.

She ran away but was raped instead by nine Saudi men before the police brought her into custody, tribunnews.com reported.

She was executed on Monday without prior notification to her family and Indonesian officials.

During a recent joint commission meeting between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi requested the cooperation of Riyadh to provide consular notifications in accordance with the 1963 Vienna Convention on consular relations.

President Jokowi also asked Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir for assurances that Indonesian migrant workers’ rights be protected.

“Jokowi must be truly serious in responding to a situation like this. When he met with the Saudi foreign minister, the President asked Saudi Arabia to provide protection for Indonesian migrant workers and work to resolve the [murder of journalist Jamal] Khashoggi in earnest,” Wahyu said.

“It turns out the request was simply ignored.”

Dian Septiari is a Jakarta Post journalist.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Police shut down Bali people’s global conference against World Bank

Protesters picket the Nirmala Hotel after the second cancellation of the People’s Global Conference in Bali. Image: PGC

By Rio Apinino in Denpasar, Bali

Indonesian police have closed down the Peoples’ Global Conference Against the IMF-World Bank which should have opened earlier today at the Radio Republic Indonesia (RRI) Auditorium in Denpasar, Bali.

As its name suggests, the conference opposes the annual International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting which is currently being held in Nusa Dua, Bali.

The event, organised by the People’s Movement Against the IMF-WB — which is made up of a number of Indonesian non-government and social organisations — was to have several discussion panels on a variety of themes broadly aimed at trying to present an alternative to the narrative promoted by the IMF and World Bank.

READ MORE: People’s global conference hassled

The event however had to be cancelled after being blocked by police.

Agrarian Reform Movement Alliance (AGRA) chairperson Rahmat Ajiguna, who is on the conference organising committee, told Tirto that until the evening of October 10 all of the preparations for the event had proceeded smoothly. All of the technical issues related to the conference had been completed.

-Partners-

“But in the end, the venue was cancelled by the RRI [radio] management”, Rahmat told Tirto last night.

The organisers tried to find an alternative venue and finally found one at the Nirmala Hotel and Convention Centre, also located in the capital Denpasar.

Hotel cancellation
Once again, however, the event was cancelled by the hotel management at the last minute on the grounds that the organisers did not have a permit from police.

After being pushed on the issue, said Rahmat, the management admitted that “the hotel had been approached by police intel [intelligence officers] and were told that we are not allowed to hold the event there”.

The conference participants were not just from Indonesia but also included international guests.

Several international organisations were to take part including, among others, the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, the Asia Pacific Research Network, the Asian Peasant Coalition, the Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self Determination and Liberation and People Over Profit.

Rahmat said that all of the participants agreed that the IMF-World Bank annual meetings brought no benefits to the majority of people.

In fact they result in the majority of the world’s people “falling into poverty, hunger, unemployment and long-term suffering. It’s like they [the IMF-World Bank] are the gods that determine humanity’s lives from the beds they sleep in to their [lives] outside the home”, he said.

The participants were only told about the cancellation when they arrived at the venue. They then formed a line holding banners in front of the hotel lobby and give speeches, which resulting in an argument between the participants and the hotel management.

Hotel security
When hotel security personnel tried to remove them one of the overseas guests said: “You’re working class. You should be with us!”

In the end they were forced to disband and participants are now trying to find an alternate venue so that the conference can still go ahead.

Rizal Assalam, one of the conference guests, said the “operation” against the conference had in fact being going on for several days.

On October 7, Peoples’ Global Conference posters appeared on WhatsApp with the logo of the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), yet the alliance has no links with the radical Islamic organisation which was outlawed by the government last year.

“Then on October 8, at the Puputan Margarana park [in Renon, Denpasar], out protest action was forcibly broken up by intel officers who claimed to be local residents. Police continued to harass [us] until the action disbanded and while participants waited to be picked up to leave the location,” Rizal said.

“On the evening of October 10, police came to the Bali LBH [Legal Aid Foundation]. Students who were staying overnight there were ordered to leave,” he added.

Earlier this morning, Rizal said, several police officers were also at the Nirmala Hotel and Convention Centre taking pictures of the participants.

Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was “Diskusi Tandingan IMF-WB Diberangus Kepolisian Bali”.

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Japan’s Kasai nominated as Western Pacific’s next WHO regional director

Japan’s candidate, Dr Takeshi Kasai … elected in spite of strong Pacific campaign over the World Health Organisation (WHO) post for Western Pacific. Image: WHO

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Japan’s candidate, Dr Takeshi Kasai, has been elected as the next World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

Health ministers and other senior officials from 30 countries voted yesterday during the 69th session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, Philippines.

Dr Kasai’s nomination will be submitted for appointment to the 114th session of the WHO executive board to take place in January 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

READ MORE: Tukuitonga goes into battle on behalf of Pacific

The new regional director will take office on 1 February for a term of five years. Regional directors may serve up to two terms.

Current regional director Dr Shin Young-soo, who has served since 2009, offered best wishes to his successor.

-Partners-

“I warmly congratulate and sincerely wish Dr Kasai the very best as the next regional director,” he said.

“When he takes the reins in February, he will inherit a strong and robust organisation, and the honour of working with a diverse group of countries joined by a formidable bond of solidarity and an unwavering commitment to delivering better health for all.”

New Zealand campaign
New Zealand campaigned in support of Dr Colin Tukuitonga for the position and he came second out of the four candidates in the running. The other chief candidates were from the Philippines and Malaysia.

If successful, Dr Tukuitonga would have been the first Regional Director from New Zealand and the first of Pacific descent.

Dr Tukuitonga was unanimously nominated by Pacific health ministers in 2017 as their candidate for the Regional Director position. New Zealand subsequently supported Dr Tukuitonga, who is a New Zealander of Niuean origin.

“Although we are disappointed with the result, we are pleased that we fought a good campaign and can hold our heads high,” said Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa, who was in Manila to support New Zealand’s candidate in the election.

“The region has made its decision and they have chosen to elect the Japanese candidate. We wish him well in his new role and look forward to working with him in the future.”

Later this week, the regional committee will adopt action plans to address a variety of health issues affecting the region’s nearly 1.9 billion people. They include:

  • Fighting neglected tropical diseases;
  • Strengthening rehabilitation services;’
  • Improving hospital planning and management;
  • Harnessing e-health for improved service delivery; and
  • Strengthening legal frameworks for health in the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Regional Committee will also discuss progress on health security, infectious and noncommunicable diseases, and environmental health.

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VP’s camp defers to Duterte over his health disclosure – ‘he knows his oath’

Health controversy: The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo in the Philippines says it respects the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte that his recent medical tests came back negative. Image: Rappler montage

By Lian Buan in Manila

The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo is keen on pushing for the public disclosure of President Rodrigo Duterte’s state of health, saying they trust what the President says about the results of his medical tests.

“We respect his declaration,” Robredo’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said yesterday.

Duterte told his Cabinet members in a meeting on Monday night that his recent medical tests came back negative for cancer.

READ  MORE: President’s health – touchy subject for Duterte, public concern for constitution

Gutierrez said it was up to the President to decide when to disclose his state of health.

“The Vice-President understands that the President also took the oath, he understands the Constitution, and he should know his obligations under the Constitution with respect to disclosure on his true state of health,” Gutierrez said.

-Partners-

Gutierrez added in Filipino: “We are happy that the President is well. The VP has said that it’s clear nobody wants the President to be sick, we want him healthy, we want him working. So if he says it’s like that, then I suppose we must respect it.”

State of health
Duterte had revealed undergoing endoscopy or colonoscopy, where doctors found a “growth”. Duterte said he would inform the public if he had cancer.

The 1987 Constitution states that the President must disclose the state of his health if he has a “serious illness”.

Asked for his legal opinion, Solicitor-General Jose Calida dismissed the topic.

“That’s not the business of the Solicitor-General to find out the health of anybody,” Calida said yesterday, adding that “I’m not a busybody, I mind my own business.”

Section 8, Article VII, of the 1987 Constitution says the vice-president shall serve as the president “in case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation” of the latter. The VP will serve only the president’s unexpired term.

When Duterte revealed he had undergone colonoscopy, the President said he would not want Robredo to take over the presidency because “she is really weak”. The Vice-President responded, saying the President should just get to work instead of insulting her.

Draft rejected
On Monday, it was revealed that the draft constitution authored by House Speaker Gloria Arroyo skipped the Vice-President in the line of succession during the proposed transition to a federal system.

The Senate immediately shot down the House draft.

“To introduce an amendment, they need 3/4 vote in both the House and the Senate, and I’m confident we have enough right-thinking senators who will not follow that kind of proposal,” Gutierrez said.

The Robredo camp had earlier slammed the proposal and its basis as “outright ridiculous”.

Lian Buan is a journalist with the independent news website Rappler.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Palu quake and tsunami sweeps away key Indonesian human rights activism

Palu mayor Rusdy Mastura (seen on the billboard), apologised in 2012 for the mass killings of Communists in Indonesia, becoming the first and only Indonesian official to do so. This paved the way for family and victims of the massacre to receive aid. Image: Ulet Ifansasti

ANALYSIS: By Dr Vannessa Hearman

When the earthquake and tsunami hit the city of Palu, Central Sulawesi, last weekend, they not only brought wreckage and death. The twin disasters also swept away efforts by activists and the municipal administration to support the survivors of Indonesia’s violent anti-communist purges in 1965-1966.

In the rest of the country, such survivors are still very marginalised.

In Palu, a city of some 350,000 inhabitants and the capital of Central Sulawesi province, activists had convinced local government leaders to work with them in helping these survivors.

READ MORE: One week on, Palu quake survivors begin to worry about the future

Palu is the only place in Indonesia where a government leader has made an official apology to the victims of the anti-communist violence in the area. Some nine days after the devastating natural disaster, the fate of some of those activists is still unknown.

Indonesian people lived under Suharto’s New Order authoritarian regime between 1968 and 1998, when the president was forced to resign. From 1965-66, the army, under Suharto, spearheaded anti-communist operations that killed half a million people and led to the detention of hundreds of thousands.

-Partners-

The army blamed Indonesia’s Communist Party (PKI) for the murder of seven army officers on the night of 30 September and in the early hours of 1 October, 1965, by a group calling itself the Thirtieth September Movement. The 53rd anniversary of these events coincided with the terrible disaster in Central Sulawesi.

The Palu earthquake and tsunami aftermath … fate of many 1965-1966 “purge” human rights activists unknown. Image: Tempo – Search for quake, tsunami victims to stop on Thursday as death toll tops 1760

In 2012, the Palu mayor, Rusdy Mastura, apologised to the victims of the anti-communist violence. He pledged to provide assistance to them and their families in the interests of “equality, openness and humanitarian considerations”.

In his speech, Mastura recalled how, as a boy scout in 1965, he had been tasked with guarding leftist detainees.

Victims of abuses
Mastura was speaking at an event organised by local human rights group, SKP-HAM (Solidaritas Korban Pelanggaran Hak Asasi Manusia, Solidarity with Victims of Human Rights Abuses).

SKP-HAM was founded in 2004. Its best-known leader is the dynamic secretary, Nurlaela Lamasitudju, the daughter of local Islamic cleric, Abdul Karim Lamasitudju.

SKP-HAM is part of the national Coalition for Truth and Justice (Koalisi Pengungkapan Kebenaran dan Keadilan, KKPK).

In 2012, the KKPK held several public events and community “hearings”, dubbed the “Year of Truth Telling”, to pressure the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to rehabilitate the victims of the violence.

In April 2012, Yudhoyono was reported as having expressed his intention to apologise to victims of human rights abuses committed during the Suharto New Order regime.

Yudhoyono’s promised apology never materialised. However, the “Year of Truth Telling” events yielded some important gains in Palu.

Following his apology, the SKP-HAM lobbied Mastura to deliver on his promises by providing healthcare and scholarships. A mayoral regulation and a Regional Action Plan for Human Rights (Rencana Hak Asasi Manusia, Ranham) were promulgated to enable this.

Autonomy laws
These local government instruments have been made possible through Indonesia’s regional autonomy laws.

The mayoral regulation also established a committee to oversee human rights protection and restoration of victims’ rights. On May 20, 2013, Palu was declared a “Human Rights Aware City”.

Each year, the city holds a series of human rights-related events.

In May 2015, the Palu City Regional Planning Body oversaw the process of checking and verifying the identity of victims and their needs, using the information compiled by human rights groups as a base.

A trailblazing city
SKP-HAM had collected 1200 testimonies about the 1965-66 violence from victims in the area. From these testimonies, it had created and uploaded to YouTube short films of survivors’ testimonies.

It had also published a book about the 1965-66 events in Sulawesi, in collaboration with Indonesian author, Putu Oka Sukanta. Mastura wrote the book’s preface.

The group supported weaving cooperatives involving women survivors and ran a café and meeting space, Kedai Fabula, at its office in Palu. In partnership with religious groups and the municipal administration, members of the group organised social activities to involve abuse survivors in the life of the city.

The activities of SKP-HAM Palu is a reminder of what has been lost. It was a trailblazing city whose achievement in human rights advancement provided a model for the rest of the country.

The people of Palu, with a great deal of assistance, will rebuild, but we still wait for more news from the city.

SKP-HAM leader, Lamasitudju, survived the earthquake and tsunami. With a sprained ankle and having lost several family members in the disaster, she is volunteering to collect and provide information regarding the situation in Palu.

Indonesia needs groups like SKP-HAM that campaign for inclusiveness and equal rights to survive into the future.

Dr Vannessa Hearman is a lecturer in Indonesian studies at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory. She is a member of the Asian Studies Association of Australia Council. Charles Darwin University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU. Asia Pacific Report republishes this article under a Creative Commons licence.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Rights violations, censorship threatens EU-Vietnam deal, says watchdog

Vietnam’s human rights record could jeopardise an upcoming free trade deal with the European Union, according to Human Rights Watch. Asia-Pacific Journalism’s Jessica Marshall reports.

A global human rights watchdog claims that Vietnam’s human rights record could jeopardise a free trade deal with the European Union.

A warning letter by Human Rights Watch, dated September 17, sent by 32 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) was addressed to the EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström.

It called for a “push for robust progress in Vietnam’s human rights record ahead of the possible ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA)”.

“. . . loose provisions on national security have been widely used to suppress peaceful dissent and jail scores of human rights defenders. . .,” the letter said.

READ MORE: Vietnam censorship extends to popular, official news website

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The letter claimed that there was a need for a series of targets that the country should meet before the agreement was handed over to the European Parliament for its approval.

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The ratification of the EVFTA agreement is slated to happen at the end of this year and would rid the country of at least 99 percent of customs duties paid on exports into Europe.

Censorship has lately become a growing concern.

Censoring reality
The words Bachelor: Vietnam contestant Minh Thu uttered to Bachelor Quoc Trung on the episode which aired on September 21 said: “I went into this competition to find love, and I’ve found that love for myself, but it isn’t with you. It’s with someone else”.

While participating in the competition over time, Thu had fallen in love with another woman, fellow contestant Truc Nhu, and they left the programme together.

“In Vietnamese pop culture, there’s a lot of people that are rumoured to be LGBT or people that hint at it. . . So to see a moment that’s unequivocal, where someone is saying that they love someone else . . . I think it’s going to be very powerful to young people,” says the shows story producer Anh-Thu Nguyen.

At this point in the history of Vietnam, few are willing to come out of the proverbial closet – in more ways than one.

Despite this, censors allowed the confession to air almost completely, a move surprising many viewers and commentators.

Vietnam, a Communist country since 1976, has seen much censorship over the years and its culture, it appears, has been no different.

Bachelor: Vietnam, currently in its first season, has faced issues of potential censorship since its inception. According to the show’s executive producer, Anh Tran, it was difficult to sell to networks.

Many of the traditional parts of the United States’ version of the show had to be edited or cut out entirely to avoid censure from censors.

The rose ceremony, for example, has to be carefully edited to avoid showing a line-up of women vying for a man – the main plot point for the show.

Mai Khoi, the woman who has been dubbed as Vietnam’s own Lady Gaga or Pussy Riot and who recorded the controversial number Dissent, was detained and “interrogated for eight hours”. Image: Hanoi Grapevine

Censorship of culture
Vietnam is ruled by the Communist Party, and censorship is seemingly common in the cultural realm as singer Mai Khoi could attest.

In March, the woman who has been dubbed as the country’s own Lady Gaga or Pussy Riot, was detained at the airport, and “interrogated for eight hours”.

Copies of her latest album, Dissent, were confiscated, she claimed in a Facebook post.
She has written songs about the women’s movement and LGBT rights. She also ran – unsuccessfully – for public office in the country. She now performs in secret in her own country.

The country has been a Communist nation since the 1960s, and censorship has long been a part of that.

Last month, Reuters reported that a court had jailed an activist for 12 years in prison and a further five years’ house arrest.

Nguyen Trung Truc, 44, was – according to a statement given by police – among a group called “Brotherhood for Democracy” in 2013. The group, police said, conducted “anti-government activities” with the aim of creating a system of “multi-party democracy” in Vietnam.

‘Hurt the prestige’
A second man, Bui Manh Dong, 40, was convicted over his comments on September 28.
Police said that Dong had “hurt the prestige and leading role of the [Communist] party and the state”.

Dong, and one other man, Doan Knanh Vinh Quang, were accused of encouraging people to protest against government policies or write posts that were critical of the government.

Vietnam has a high level of social media use among its citizens yet the country’s Communist government has introduced a new law which, according to Amnesty International, would force tech companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook to hand over data from their users.

“This decision has potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression in Viet Nam,” said Clare Algar, international director of global operations for Amnesty International, in June.

“With the sweeping powers it grants the government to monitor online activity, this. . . means there is now no safe place left. . . for people to speak freely”.

Last year, it was reported that the country had built up a force of “cyber-troops” to tackle what they call “wrongful views”.

Jessica Marshall is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies course at AUT. She is filing articles in the Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies paper.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media