RSF open letter plea to Suu Kyi for Myanmar journalists’ freedom

RSF open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi … “How are we to understand the sentence passed on these two journalists at the start of the week? What credibility can the rule of law and judicial independence have in Myanmar after this farce?” Image: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/RSF

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Five days after Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison on a trumped-up charge, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has written to the head of Myanmar’s government asking her to end her deafening silence and to intercede on behalf of the two journalists.

READ MORE: Massacre in Myanmar – the Reuters investigation

This is the open letter:

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
State Counsellor
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of the President’s Office
of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
State Counsellor Office No 8
Naypyitaw, Myanmar

Paris, 6 September 2018

Dear State Counsellor,


An iniquitous sentence of seven years in prison on a trumped-up charge of violating the Official Secrets Acts was passed at the start of this week on Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two reporters with the Reuters news agency who have already spent nearly nine months in detention.

Their only crime was to investigate the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya civilians by members of Myanmar’s army. In the course of shedding light on the terrible reality of the ethnic cleansing carried out by the army and its auxiliaries in the north of Rakhine State, the news agency’s reporters discovered summary executions, mass graves, the torching of villages and systematic efforts to eliminate of all trace of the atrocities.

As you know, the two reporters were crudely framed by the police, as a police captain, Moe Yan Naing, acknowledged in court on 20 April. The thoroughness of their investigative reporting nonetheless forced the Tatmadaw, Myanmar armed forces, to recognise the reality of the Inn Dinn massacre and to sentence seven soldiers to 10 years in prison for their role.

We are deeply saddened by your only statement about the two journalists. In an interview for NHK in June, you simply said that “they were nor arrested for covering the Rakhine issue” but “because they broke the Official Secrets Act” and that it “will be up to judiciary, it is for the judiciary to decide.” Their innocence was nonetheless glaringly obvious.

RSF wrote to you on 7 September 2017 asking you to use your moral authority to ensure that journalists were free to work in Myanmar. Your response was silence. Your response to the appeals of Myanmar’s journalists and foreign journalists was silence. Your response to the international community’s appeals was silence.

How are we to understand the sentence passed on these two journalists at the start of the week? What credibility can the rule of law and judicial independence have in Myanmar after this farce? To those who have tried to raise the issue in your presence, you have responded with “fury,” as in January with former US diplomat Bill Richardson, one of your oldest supporters, who felt obliged to resign from your international panel of advisers after you described Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as “traitors.”

Were journalists traitors when they covered the military junta’s suppression of the 1988 democracy movement, in which you rose to political prominence? Were journalists traitors when they relayed your calls for democracy during the 15 years you spent under house arrest? Were journalists traitors when they hailed the advent of democracy with your party’s victory in 2015 and your appointment as head of government in 2016?

Awarded the Sakharov Prize in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, you have long been hailed as resolute advocate of democracy and you have defended what is one of its foundations with a great deal of vision. Speaking when you were released in 2010, you said, “the basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech.” The following year, you assured RSF of your commitment to press freedom.

Since the end of your time under house arrest, you have on several occasions said that you reject the status of icon and that you see yourself as a politician seeking concrete results for her people. We are aware of the political circumstances in Myanmar that force you to seek compromises with the Tatmadaw’s representatives.

But nothing, absolutely nothing, forces you, as the Union of Myanmar’s head of government, to observe this deafening silence. Nothing forces you to refer to journalists’ coverage of Rakhine State as “a huge iceberg of misinformation.” Nothing forces you to go down in history as someone who betrayed the ideals on which she built her reputation.

This is why we urge you to intercede immediately to obtain the release of these two Reuters journalists. One of your closest allies, President Win Myint, has the power to grant them a pardon.

You have the ability to take action today in support of the values that you defended with courage for so long.


Christophe Deloire
Reporters sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders / RSF
Paris, France

Nobel Peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi under fire for not condemning the Rohingya’s prosecution in Myanmar. In April 2017, she said: “I don’t think there is ethnic cleansing going on.” She also refused to allow UN investigators access to the region. Video: Al Jazeera

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Films about 1965 anti-communist stigma dominate Indonesian festival

The trailer for Eka Saputri’s film Melawan Arus. Video: Komunitas Kedung

By Joko Santoso in Purbalingga

A short film by a student whose family were victims of the 1965 anti-communist purge in Indonesia has won best fictional film at the 2018 Purbalingga Film Festival.

The film titled Against the Current (Melawan Arus) was directed by Eka Saputri and produced by the Kebumen 1 State Vocational School.

Facilitated by the Ministry of Education and Culture’s (Kemdikbud) Cinematography Development Centre (Pusbangfilm), the film tells the story of a man and wife defending their rights to their land despite being branded “decadents” of the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Yono, the husband, has lost his spirit to defend the land which is being disputed with the authorities. He suggests to his wife Siti that they move.

Siti however who is strong in her convictions remains living in the house squatting on the land. The 10-minute film researches a land conflict in Urut Sewu, Kebumen.


According to one member of the fictional film jury, Teguh Trianton, Against the Current succeeds getting views to explore the psychological aspects of the issue.

“The film leaves viewers contemplating deeply and leaves behind questions the answers to which can be found outside of the film,” sauidTrianton.

“We hope that our film can inspire views through the courage of community farmers in Urut Sewu in defending their right to land,” said director Eka Saputri.

Best documentary
The best documentary category was won by Sum by director Firman Fajar Wiguna and produced by the Purbalingga 2 State Vocational School.

The 15-minute film tells the story of a woman named Suminah, a former Indonesian Peasants Union (BTI, affiliated with the PKI) activist.

After being jailed for 13 years, Sum lives in solitude. She continues to wait for things to take a turn for the better.

According to the documentary jury board’s notes, the film Sum was put together through selected esthetic pictures and a sequence of clear informational narratives.

“As an endeavor at visual communication, this film enriches the national historical language through a grass-roots perspective and the victims who were impacted upon by the excesses of political struggles at the national level,” explained one of the jury members, Adrian Jonathan Pasaribu.

The favorite fictional film category was won by the film Banner (Umbul-Umbul) directed by Atik Alvianti and produced by the Purwareja Banjarnegara Group Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI) 2 Vocational School.

Viewers’ favourite
In the favorite documentary film category meanwhile, viewers sided with Unseen Legacy (Warisan Tak Kasat Mata), directed by Sekar Fazhari from the Bukateja Purbalingga State senior high school.

The Lintang Kemukus award for Banyumas Raya maestro of the arts and culture was awarded to R. Soetedja (1909-1960), a composer from Banyumas, and the Kamuajo Musical Group was awarded the Lintang Kemukus category of contemporary arts and culture.

Purbalingga regent Dyah Hayuning Pratiwi, SE, B. Econ who attended the highpoints of the FFP event, said that the Purbalingga regency government was committed to supporting cinematographic activities and the film festival in Purbalingga.

“Aside from being an arena for friendly gatherings, cinematographic activities are also an arena to improve respective regency’s reputations and prestige,” he said.

Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was Film Tragedi 65 Raih Penghargaan di FFP 2018.

The making of Melawan Arus – dialogue in Bahasa Indonesian.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippines under Duterte – acute impunity and fettered information

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Philippines under Duterte – acute impunity and fettered information

Eight years later, families of the 58 people massacred in Maguindanao – including 32 journalists – continue to wait for justice. Image: UCANews

ANALYSIS: By Malou Mangahas in Manila

Eight years ago on 23 November 2009, 32 journalists were among the 58 who were killed in what is now known as the Maguindanao Massacre, until then the worst and most tragic incident of media lives lost in a single day.

Multiple murder charges have been filed against more than 100 people for the incident but to this day, the presentation of defence witnesses has not finished, and about 80 other respondents remain at large.

Indeed, acute assaults on journalists and media freedom should not pass with impunity.

Today, as the nation marks the 8th anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, this composite report of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, illustrates why the press in the Philippines would do well to understand the severity of the challenges it faces under the Duterte administration — a situation of benign and acute impunity, and fettered flow of information.

While we remain a free community in law and theory, and blessed with a Constitution that enshrines protection, a tectonic shift has moved the ground and the foundation of the practice of journalism in the last 16 months.

The press in the Philippines has been described to be among the freest in Asia if not in the world, robust, almost rambunctious in its practice. But in the first 16 months of the Duterte administration, its status and practice have been diminished, shaken down by supporters and trolls of the President who would not tolerate critical coverage.


No less than the President has struck at the heart of the institution with threats of action against major news organisations. He has cursed journalists in public for raising testy questions about his health, catcalled a female reporter, and averred without serving proof that journalists are killed because they are corrupt.

Toxic mix
This toxic mix — over-reaching executive power, the threat of violence and public censure, and divided and fettered newsrooms — has left the flow of information unfree, convoluted, and constrained under the Duterte presidency.

To be sure, the administration has taken steps early in its rule to address the attacks and threats, and a string of unsolved murders of Filipino journalists from earlier years.

Duterte signed Administrative Order No. 1, Creating The Presidential Task Force On Violations Of The Right To Life, Liberty And Security Of The Members Of The Media (PTFoMS), on 11 October 2016. But the agency that is also called PTFoMS lacks resources and personnel to have genuine impact.

The cases of assaults on the media under the Duterte presidency turned bad in succeeding months, however. From May to October this year, the number of casualties among members of the press began to rise again.

In the first 16 months of the Duterte presidency:

  • Six journalists have been killed, including the three that had been listed by the Task Force;
  • Eight have survived slay attempts and received death threats;
  • Three libel cases have been filed, even as a libel case filed in 2015 has led to the arrest of the accused. Other libel cases filed in previous years ended in an acquittal and two convictions; and
  • Six major cases of verbal and online threats from local officials or pro-Duterte bloggers have been reported.

Journalists killed under the Duterte administration in 2016. Image: PCIJ

These acute and direct attempts to harass and muzzle journalists and media freedom have unfolded alongside more benign but equally grave threats to the practice of journalism and the free flow of information in the Philippines today. For instance:

  • Access to information remains problematic for journalists and media agencies covering the war on drugs. Getting information, especially on sensitive and controversial cases, remains constrained;
  • Against their will, media personnel are sometimes compelled by police officers to sign on as witnesses in police anti-drug operations, supposedly as mandated by the law;
  • Newsroom protection for the safety of journalists covering the war on drugs remains lacking; and
  • Psychological trauma overwhelms media coverage teams assigned to the war on drugs on account of their repeated first-hand exposure to revolting images of the dead, the maimed, the enraged, as well as the tremendous grief of the family members of the victims.

Malou Mangahas is executive director of the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism(PCIJ). She will be in Auckland next week to address the Pacific Media Centre’s 10th Anniversary seminar on Thursday.

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Febriana Firdaus wins inaugural Pogau award for courage in journalism

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Febriana Firdaus wins inaugural Pogau award for courage in journalism

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Jakarta has a new award for courage in journalism honouring West Papuan editor Oktovianus Pogau, who died last year. The inaugural award has been made to reporter Febriana Firdaus, who has extensively covered human rights abuses in Indonesia, says the Pantau Foundation.

“We want to honour our colleague, Oktovianus Pogau, a smart and courageous journalist, who edited Suara Papua news and highlighted human rights reporting. He passed away at a very young age – just 23 years old. We want to honor his legacy by establishing this Oktovianus Pogau award,” said Imam Shofwan, chairman of the Pantau Foundation in a speech to a small gathering at his office.

The Pantau Foundation selected Febriana Firdaus, a Jakarta journalist, to receive the inaugural award.

Firdaus covered Indonesia’s efforts to deal with the 1965-1966 massacres, disappearances and arbitrary detentions. She also covered discrimination, intimidation, and violence against the LGBT community in Indonesia.

“LGBT is a very sensitive subject in Indonesia where many religious communities, including Muslim organisations, still consider homosexuality a psychological disorder. Febriana Firdaus is courageous to stand up for LGBT, to affirm that LGBT is nature, and to expose their side of the story,” said Shofwan.

Firdaus was born in 1983 in Kalisat, a small town in eastern Java, and graduated from Airlangga University in Surabaya in 2007. She has worked for Jawa Pos daily, Tempo magazine and Rappler Online. She is currently a freelance journalist.

Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, a former chairman of Indonesia’s Press Council and himself an award-winning journalist, presented the award to Firdaus, welcoming the launch of the award and congratulating Firdaus.

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‘Proto-fascism era’
Allan Nairn, another award-winning journalist based in New York, gave a speech, talking about courage in journalism in Trump’s “proto-fascism era.”

Nairn spoke about the challenges the press faced in covering a president like Donald Trump, who lies constantly yet was also hugely entertaining.

Nairn noted that the US provides a warning to Indonesia because the same proto-fascists that rose to power in the US were also trying to achieve power in Indonesia, although it was not clear whether they would succeed.

On her blog, Firdaus wrote, “This award is not about me or other future winners. This is a gentle reminder of the name Okto Pogau but it’s also more than about his name. His name represents the unsolved human rights abuses in Papua.

“Every year this award will always remind us about the human rights abuses never addressed in Indonesia since the 1965 massacre.”

Oktovianus Pogau was born in Sugapa in the Central Highlands on 5 August 1992 and died on 31 January 2016 in Jayapura.

He won an Indonesian writing competition when he was 14 years old, letting him to travel away from his native West Papua and to take part in a writing course in Yogyakarta, Java Island. He learned WordPress and created his own blog when he was 16 years old. He moved to Jakarta in 2010, studying international relations and becoming a freelance journalist.

Peaceful gathering
In October 2011, he covered a peaceful gathering of thousands of Papuan men and women in Jayapura, discussing their political aspiration to be independent from Indonesia.

Indonesian police used excessive force to disperse them. They fired warning shots, beating and kicking indigenous Papuans. Three men died of gunshot wounds, around 600 were detained and five of their leaders were tried and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Pogau was upset when seeing that most Indonesian media did not proportionally cover the abuses. He decided to set up Suara Papua (Papuan Voice) on 10 December 2011 — on  international human rights day — to cover rights abuses in West Papua. He made Suara Papua a platform for young Papuans to report and to write their stories.

Pogau also engaged his audience with his sharp political analysis. He used his knowledge and networks to advocate for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for ethnic Papuans.

He was also sympathetic to the National Committee of West Papua, a large Papuan youth organisation, which is campaigning for a referendum in West Papua.

In October 2012, when he was covering one of their rallies in Manokwari, he was beaten on a street corner. Several police officers stopped him from taking photos. He suffered bruises and complained.

The West Papua police later apologised but his union, Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists, refused to help him, arguing that Pogau was also an activist and declaring he had crossed the line between journalism and activism.

Restriction on foreign journalists
Pogau wrote extensively about the restriction on foreign journalists visiting West Papua. He protested against the discrimination against indigenous Papuan journalists and the intensive use of journalists, both Indonesian and Papuan, to be military and police informers.

He indirectly contributed to President Joko Widodo in May 2015 declaring the Indonesian bureaucracy would stop restrictions on foreign journalists covering West Papua.

Jokowi’s command has not been fulfilled completely. He travelled to the US in December 2015, writing about African-Americans dealing with violence and about the similarity of the harsh treatment of Papuans.

The jurors of the award included Alexander Mering (Kampong Journalism Movement in Pontianak, Kalimantan), Andreas Harsono (researcher at Human Rights Watch in Jakarta, Java), Coen Husain Pontoh (chief editor at Indo Progress news portal in New York), Made Ali (environmentalist at Jikalahari in Pekanbaru, Sumatra), Yuliana Lantipo (editor at Jubi daily in Jayapura, West Papua).

The mandate of this award is to exclude a financial gift and a generous ceremony, hoping that it will be sustainable and making jurors concentrate only in selecting a winner. The award is to be announced every year on January 31.

When presenting the award, Imam Shofwan talked about his personal experience with Pogau: “Once he called me on my mobile and I heard gunshots in the background. I told him to run but he kept on talking, asking me to tweet. He continuously tried to bring out rights abuses in Papua.

“He died young but his courage should inspire other journalists.”

Febriana Firdaus and the Pantau award [Bahasa]