Filipino groups denounce cyberattacks against independent media

Groups denounce cyberattacks against several independent media websites in the Philippines. Image: Kodao Productions/Global Voices

By Mong Palatino in Manila

Several media groups in the Philippines marked the World Day Against Cyber Censorship this week by holding a protest to denounce the ongoing cyberattacks against their websites which they claim are backed by the government.

Since December 2018, the websites of alternative media groups Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly and Altermidya have been targeted by distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS).

The NUJP “we’re still up” page. Image: PMC screenshot

The websites of Arkibong Bayan, Manila Today and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have also been attacked in the past month.

According to the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, at least 10 cases of cyber onslaught against select Filipino news outlets have been documented since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016.

Qurium, a Sweden-based media foundation which has been assisting those media groups, confirmed the DDoS attacks against Altermidya and other alternative news websites.

The details of the DDoS attacks have been reported to the government’s National Computer Emergency Response Team (NCERT) of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). After one month had passed without the government body acknowledging their report, the media groups led by Altermidya decided to protest in front of NCERT’s office on Tuesday.

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In a pooled editorial, the media groups linked the cyberattacks to the government’s crackdown on dissent:

The Duterte regime is using every means to silence dissent, criticism and free expression: from threats, incarceration to killings, to cyber warfare. The main target of this latest assault are the alternative media that mostly via online disseminate reports and views on events and issues that are rarely covered, if at all, by the dominant media. The goal is to deny a public hungry for information the reports and stories that it needs to understand what is happening in a country besieged by lies and disinformation.

The editorial condemned the increasing attacks against the press, especially those perceived to be critical of the Duterte government.

Altermidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla explained on Facebook why they protested against NCERT:

This is why we are here. We demand that they act on the attacks. Otherwise, we will be lead to believe that NCERT and DICT are complicit in the attack on press freedom.

Altermidya reporter Toby Roca echoed her words:

Jola Diones-Mamangun, executive director of Kodao Productions, criticised the use of bots and trolls to undermine the work of the independent media:

Not content with fomenting disinformation and fake news, the Duterte administration is hell-bent on silencing what it considers as fierce critics and political opponents and goes to extreme lengths and harnessing even the power of the dark web.

Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former lawmaker in the House of Representatives. He has been blogging since 2004 at mongster’s nest. This article is republished from Global Voices on a Creative Commons licence.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Journalism education at USP – a 30-year struggle for free press

By Shailendra Singh in Suva

The University of the South Pacific’s recent 50th anniversary marked 30 years of existence for its regional journalism programme. In an eventful journey, the programme weathered military coups, overcame financial hardships and shrugged off academic snobbery to get this far.

The programme started in Suva in 1988, with Commonwealth funding, and a handful of students to its name. It has produced more than 200 graduates serving the Pacific and beyond in various media and communication roles.

USP journalism graduates have produced award-winning journalism, started their own media companies and localised various positions at regional organisations once reserved for expatriates.

READ MORE: Fiji Report – a day in the life of Wansolwara newspaper

The beginning was hardly auspicious: founding coordinator, the late Australian-based Kiwi academic Murray Masterton, recalled that from the outset, some USP academics felt that journalism was a vocational course with no place in a university.

A University for the Pacific. Image: USP

Such disdain turned out to be the least of Dr Masterton’s problems: plans to offer certificate-level courses in 1987 were almost derailed by Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka’s pro-indigenous coups.

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Masterton persevered in the face of this political earthquake – the South Pacific’s first military takeover of a nation – and after some delays, he got the programme off the ground. It was a significant development in a region where journalists had little opportunity to attain formal qualifications.

And it was not without irony – the Pacific’s first regional journalism programme, a symbol of media freedom, introduced in a climate of great media repression in Fiji.

Another cloud
Just years after establishing its position, the programme’s future came under another cloud when Commonwealth sponsorship ran out. An injection of French government funds in 1993 provided a new lease of life, with the programme upgraded to a BA double-major degree.

The three-year grant was supervised by Francois Turmel, former BBC World Service editor in London. During those lean years, Turmel often dug into his pockets to fund some activities.
When French funding ended in 1996, USP took over the programme, appointing another Kiwi coordinator in David Robie, a former international journalist, then head of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) journalism programme.

During his term from 1998–2002, Robie made major curriculum changes by integrating the student training newspaper, Wansolwara, into the assessment and introducing professional work attachments with news media organisations.

He was also the first journalism educator to gain a PhD (from USP) in New Zealand and the Pacific, returning to Suva to graduate in 2003 in history/politics. He tells the story of the early decades of Pacific journalism education in his 2004 book Mekim Nius: South Pacific media, politics and education.

In 2001, I joined the USP journalism programme as the first full-time local assistant lecturer. I was already a Fiji and Pacific news media professional and I went on to become the first local to head the journalism programme.

After graduating with my PhD from the University of Queensland in 2016, I would become the first local PhD to teach journalism at USP. I saw to the expansion of the programme with a boost in enrolments and improved facilities to cater for the new demand, including the recruitment of two local teaching assistants.

Under my watch, Wansolwara continued to win major awards for excellence in journalism.

Recruitment of locals
The recruitment of locals was an important step in building local capacity to carry out teaching and research and provide support for Wansolwara.

The newspaper, founded in 1996 by lecturer Philip Cass, an Aussie, and a number of students, became well-established as the programme’s flagship publication. Wansolwara literally means “one ocean one people.” For founding student editor Stanley Simpson, the paper was a creation of young minds who “wanted to do things their way”.

Student training newspapers are regarded as important strategic assets, and Wansolwara has certainly played crucial roles at crucial times. The paper came to prominence for its coverage of the May 2000 nationalist coup, and the ensuing hostage crisis in Parliament, when the deposed Chaudhry government was held in captivity for 56 days.

Professor Robie has described the 2000 coup coverage as “one of the most challenging” examples of campus-based journalism. The students’ reporting put the overseas parachute journalists to shame, as recounted by Dr Cass: “Much of the outside coverage seemed to be done by people who were just taking the plotters’ statements at face value or else were writing their reports beside the swimming pool at the Travelodge, so the students were giving an alternative view that in many cases was much closer to what was going on.”

Not everyone appreciated the coup coverage. Certain USP academics concerned about security felt that student journalists should practice “simulated journalism”. The smashing-up of the nearby Fiji Television studios by rampaging coup supporters was the last straw for USP, which shut down the Wansolwara news website called Pacific Journalism Online.

However, Dr Robie was able to arrange for a “mirror” site at the Sydney University of Technology to allow the coverage to continue. Wansolwara won the Journalism Education Association of Australia “best publication” in the region award for its efforts.

It was one in a long line of journalism association, as well as regional and Fiji national, awards for excellence in journalism. Such honours, along with a healthy research output, has long since silenced jibes about USP journalism’s fitness as an academic course.

Under the radar
In the post-2006 Voreqe Bainimarama coup years, as media restrictions tightened, Wansolwara, as a student newspaper, was able to remain under the radar and operate more freely than the mainstream media.

Student reporting in the face of risks was exemplary. The April 2009 issue, which included a four-page critique of the coup, was still at press when the punitive Public Emergency Regulations were introduced.

The Solomon Islands student editor at the time, Leni Dalavera, phoned me in the dead of night, concerned that the students risked arrest. Delavera was assured that the authorities were highly unlikely to move against the students, and that the lecturers were responsible for the publication.

The thrills-frills of coup coverage aside, student journalists are also challenged in major ways during the so-called regular beats. A 2016 Pacific Journalism Review journal article by Singh and Eliki Drugunalevu, examined how USP student journalists deal with backlash from peers offended by their coverage.

This article shows how USP’s journalism students changed their initial feelings of fear, hurt and self-doubt to a sense of pride and accomplishment. Students felt they developed resilience, fortitude and a deeper understanding of the watchdog journalism ethos – learning outcomes which would not have been achievable through classroom teaching alone.

This reinforces the idea that students should not be cocooned, or made to practice ‘simulated journalism’, since they learn from dealing with confronting situations, a reality in journalism.

Students like Simpson, who bagged a string of national and regional awards as a professional, cut his teeth as a Wansolwara reporter.

Crucial role
The achievements of staff and students, the unique research undertaken by the programme into regional media issues – which feeds back into teaching – and journalism’s crucial role in the region, have cemented the programme’s position at USP.

In an interview in the November 2016 edition of Wansolwara, USP vice-chancellor and president, Professor Rajesh Chandra, pledged that journalism would remain part of the university’s future.

Chandra, who had strongly supported the establishment of journalism at USP, stated that good journalism was critical for an open and truly democratic society and USP’s role in training good journalists was crucial.

Professor Chandra’s comments underscore not just the journalism programme’s important role at USP, but its contribution to the region as a whole. Such vindication is welcome news for all those who fought for the programme and contributed to its development.

Dr Shailendra Singh is coordinator of USP’s journalism programme. This article was first published as a chapter in the recent book, A University for the Pacific: 50 Years of USP, edited by Jacqueline Leckie. It is republished here with the permission of the author, editor and USP.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Activist’s arrest shows Widodo ‘no different’ from Suharto, says AJI

AJI chairperson Abdul Manan speaking at a Jakarta rally … “freedom of expression … is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Image: Sakina Rakhma/Kompas

By Fitria Chusna Farisa in Jakarta

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has called on the Indonesian police to release Jakarta State University lecturer Robertus Robet who has been indicted on charges of insulting the authorities or a public agency.

AJI says that a speech given by Robert during a Kamisan (Thursday) action in front of the State Palace on February 28 which touched on the dual socio-political role (dwi-fungsi) of ABRI — an abbreviation for the Indonesian Armed Forces, now called TNI — was an act of free expression by a citizen which is guaranteed under Article 28E Paragraph (3) of the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945).

“Expressing a view is part of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said AJI chairperson Abdul Manan in a written press release yesterday.

According to AJI, Robet’s arrest shows that there was no difference between the current regime of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the New Order regime of former president Suharto which curbed freedom of expression and opinion.

AJI condemned Robet’s arrest because it was done without any clear legal basis.

“Robertus Robet’s criticism of the government’s plan to again place active TNI [officers] in civil posts is protected by legislation,” said Manan.

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AJI is also urging the police to immediately release Robet and respect human rights which guarantee citizens the right freedom of opinion and expression as regulated under the UUD 1945.

‘Rubber articles’
Finally, AJI is calling for the “rubber articles” (catchall articles) in the Electronic Transaction and Information law (UU ITE) and the Criminal Code (KUHP) to be annulled.

“We call for the annulment of the rubber articles in the UU ITE and the KUHP which are frequently used to criminalise human rights defenders, including journalists,” he said.

Police have declared Robet a suspect in a case of alleged criminal defamation against the authorities or a public agency in Indonesia.

Based on the charge document from the National Police, Robert has been indicted under Article 45 A Paragraph (2) in connection with Article 28 Paragraph (2) of the ITE law and/or Article 14 Paragraph (2) in conjunction with Article 15 of Law Number 1/1946 on the Criminal Code and/or Article 207 of the Criminal Code (KUHP).

Robet is alleged to have disseminated information aimed at creating hatred and animosity against individuals and or social groups based on SARA (ethnic, religion, race and inter-group issues), fake news or defamation against the authorities or a public agency.

Robet is alleged to have committed this crime when he was giving a speech at the Kamisan action on February 28 about ABRI’s dwi-fungsi.

In the speech, Robert sang a song which was popular among the 1998 students movement to satirise the ABRI.

Translated by James Balowski of Indo-Left News. The original title of the article in Kompas was “AJI Nilai Orasi Robertus Robet adalah Kebebasan Berekspresi Warga Negara”.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timorese journalists protest outside Philippine embassy over Ressa arrest

Timor-Leste Press Union president Francisco Belo condemning the arrest and charge of “cyber libel” against Rappler publisher Maria Ressa. Image: Antonio Dasiparu/TLPU

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Timor-Leste Press Union has protested in front of the Philippine Embassy in the capital Dili in solidarity with indicted Journalist Maria Ressa over her “persecution” and in defence of freedom of the press.

Rappler CEO and editor Maria Ressa is known and respected for her work as a journalist in bringing the plight of the suffering people of Timor-Leste under a quarter century of Indonesian occupation prior to renewed independence in 1999.

The Timorese journalist protest was broadcast by the public broadcaster RTTL.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the leading Philippine national dailies, reported today that Ressa had accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration of acting like a dictatorship and using the law as a weapon to muzzle dissent.

READ MORE: Rappler’s Maria Ressa sees threat to democracy

“What we’re seeing … is a level of impunity that I frankly haven’t seen, and I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 some odd years,” Ressa said after posting bail in a Manila court on Thursday.

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Ressa, who was selected by Time magazine as one of its Persons of the Year last year, is the head of Rappler Inc., which has aggressively covered Duterte’s administration.

Rappler publisher Maria Ressa speaking at a media conference after her release on bail in Manila. Image: Philippine Daily Inquirer

She was arrested Wednesday over a libel complaint from a businessman. Duterte’s government claimed the arrest was a normal step in response to the complaint and had nothing to do with press freedom.

Universities condemn arrest
University leaders and student groups in the Philippines have also condemned the arrest of Ressa, saying schools must defend the truth and press freedom, reports Rappler.

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) president Father Ramon Jose Villarin and De La Salle Philippines president Brother Armin Luistro urged the universities’ communities to speak out and defend democracy.

“The university shares Maria’s challenge to shine the light on power and be brave in witnessing to the truth. Veritas liberabit vos (The truth will set you free),” Villarin said.

“Lies and false promises of unbridled power, when met with silence, will only make us a nation of slaves,” he added.

Luistro urged Lasallians to “vote with their feet” in the upcoming 2019 elections and make their voices heard to defend press freedom.

Ressa was arrested in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the Justice Department.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Student Council and ADMU publication The Guidon denounced the arrest, saying students would continue to hold the line with Ressa and Rappler.

‘Make our voices heard’
Here are the statements of support from various schools:

Brother Armin Luistro FSC, president of De La Salle Philippines:

“Let’s give our all out support as Lasallians to Rappler. Let’s defend press freedom. Let’s make our voices heard. Let’s vote with our feet and stand with Maria Ressa!”

Father Jose Ramon Villarin SJ, president of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU):

“In my statement of 13 October 2017, I had occasion to ‘call on everyone in the community to defend our democratic institutions” and to state that “[t]his call to defend our democratic institutions is not even a matter of political partisanship or persuasion. It is a call that is borne out of our conviction about what is right and just and truly democratic.’

“While such pronouncements then pertained to government institutions in particular, the same should be said with regard to freedom of speech, of expression and of the press. No less than the Philippine Constitution recognises ‘the vital role of communication and information in nation-building’ (Constitution, Art. II. Sec. 24) and ‘the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press’ (Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 4).

“There are several rights and freedoms necessary for a democratic society to function. The right to life, the right to due process, the sweet freedoms of speech and of the press – all of these were once considered sacred, inviolable. But as of late these have been called into question; mocked, attacked, degraded.

Rappler, and its brave leader Maria Ressa, have consistently held the line against the erosion of these liberties. It is journalists like her who keep us all informed about the state of our nation, covering different areas of our national life, contributing immeasurably to the wealth and value of our country.

“Too often these days, it is they who wage daily battles against fake news, expose corruption and bring to light illegal practices and wrongdoing by those who lead us.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippine website editor Maria Ressa held on ‘cyber libel’ charge

Award-winning journalist, publisher and editor Maria Ressa (left) being arrested in Rappler’s newsroom yesterday. She was being kept in detention last night. Image: Maria Tan/AFP/RSF

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Paris-based global media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned yesterday’s arrest of Maria Ressa, editor of the independent Manila-based news website Rappler, on a “cyber libel” (defamation) charge.

It is referring the Philippine government’s “repeated persecution” of this journalist and her website to the United Nations Secretary-General.

Chosen as one of Time Magazine’s “persons of the year” in 2018, Ressa was spending last night in detention after being arrested at Rappler headquarters by agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) armed with an arrest warrant issued on the basis of online defamation case filed last week.

READ MORE: Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrested for ‘cyber libel’

“It seems that her arrest was left until the end of the afternoon with the deliberate aim of keeping her in detention overnight,” RSF said.

According to her colleagues, the judge said there was no time to handle the bail request until today.

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The Philippine Justice Department filed the case against Ressa and Rappler on February 6 over an article published in 2012 about alleged ties between a Philippine businessmen and the then president of the country’s Supreme Court.

The charges, which carry a possible 12-year jail sentence, were brought under a cyber crime law that had not yet taken effect when the article was published.

‘No place in prison’
“Maria Ressa has no place in prison and the judicial persecution to which she is being subjected is becoming increasingly unacceptable,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Digging up an old case that was dismissed in February 2018 is absolutely absurd and confirms that this is not justice but an attempt to gag a media outlet and editor recognised internationally for their professionalism and independence.”

Deloire added: “We are asking the UN secretary-general to intercede as quickly as possible to end this harassment. At the same time, we ask the court that handles this case to dismiss all the charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.”

This is the sixth charge to be brought against Ressa in more than a year of systematic judicial harassment.

Four charges of tax evasion and failing to file income tax returns were brought against Rappler and Ressa last November. A fifth charge, described by RSF as “completely spurious”, was brought in December.

Ressa is one of the 25 members of an international panel created at RSF’s initiative last year that drafted an international Declaration on Information and Democracy.

On the basis of the declaration, the leaders of 12 democratic countries launched a political process on November 11 aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion.

Media freedom awards
As well as being one of Time Magazine’s “persons of the year,” Ressa also received the 2018 Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and has become a symbol of the Philippine media’s fight against intimidation by President Rodrigo Duterte.

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

Press freedom groups around the world, including New Zealand’s Pacific Media Centre/Pacific Media Watch, condemned the persecution, with Pen America saying the arrest showed the Duterte government was “desperate” to silence critics.

“Maria Ressa, along with her colleagues at Rappler, has fearlessly exposed the abuses of the Duterte government, even in the face of relentless harassment,” Pen said.

“By arresting her on these absurd and baseless charges, concerning an article published 7 years ago and prior to the enactment of the very law under which she is being charged, the Philippines government has exposed how desperate it is to silence critics and stamp out independent journalism in the country.

“We call on the Duterte government to immediately drop these charges and release Ressa. Investigative journalism is not a crime.”

#Journalismisnotacrime

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Samoan police arrest anti-government blogger ‘King Faipopo’

“King Faipopo”, as he appeared in a video sent to the Samoa Observer last year. Image: Samoa Observer

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Samoan anti-government blogger Malele Paulo has been arrested, reports RNZ Pacific.

Malele, who uses the pseudonym “King Faipopo”, is being held in police custody.

RNZ reported Malele had been charged with making threatening social media statements towards the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, under a new criminal libel law.

Malele, who is based in Australia, was arrested in Apia after he returned to Samoa for his mother’s funeral.

In August, Tuilaepa said he was filing a lawsuit against Malele over accusations he had posted on his blog.

At the time, Malele as “King Faipopo” had challenged the prime minister to “come and get me”, according to the Samoa Observer.

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Responding to a statement issued then by the Office of the Prime Minister for the authorities to begin the process to bring him back to Samoa, Malele said he was not afraid of the actions taken by the prime minister.

‘I ain’t scared’
“I ain’t scared of anyone on this earth, Tuilaepa Sailele. Don’t try and scare me because I am not afraid of you and I have said it so many times. I am only scared of God.

“I have apologised to the country but you did not reply to my apology. I apologise to the country, not you, and you did not respond.

“You said the police will come and arrest King Faipopo. So come and get me I am waiting,” he said in the video sent to the Samoa Observer.

Malele said he at the time he was also ready to face the prime minister in court.

In December 2017, Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa criticised the country’s Parliament for unanimously enacting the new criminal libel law after it had been repealed four years earlier, according to RNZ Pacific.

Mata’afa said the law threatened media freedom in Samoa. While it would be ineffective against “faceless” bloggers it would “cripple” the maintream media, he said.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

No progress on press freedom, impunity under Jokowi’s watch

By Dieqy Hasbi Widhana in Jakarta

Indonesia’s National Press Day (HPN), which falls on February 9 – yesterday, is a reminder of the murder of Radar Bali journalist Anak Agung Gede Prabangsa in 2009.

Based on the results of an investigation by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), which was later published under the title “The Bloody Trail After News, Prabangsa was murdered because he wrote at least three articles on the manipulation of project budgets valued at around 40 billion rupiah (NZ$47 billion) in Bangli regency, Bali.

The three reports were titled, “Supervision after a Project is Running”, “Sharing the Bangli Education Office P1 Project” and “Agency Head’s Document Deemed Flawed”.

READ MORE: The Bloody Trail After News [Bahasa Indonesian]

The mastermind behind Prabangsa’s murder was Susrama, a contractor who routinely handled contract and procurement tenders for several government offices and agencies in Bangli, Bali.

Susrama is also the younger brother of Bangli Regent I Nengah Arnawa, who at the time was an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislative candidate in the 2009 elections, and was then elected as a member of the Bangli Regional House of Representatives (DPRD). Susrama was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for Prabangsa’s murder.

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The irony, however, is that Susrama’s life sentenced has been commuted by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Through a sentence remission contained in Presidential Decree Number 29/2018, Widodo reduced Susrama’s sentence from life to 20 years imprisonment. Susrama was the 94th in a list of 115 convicts who received sentence remissions.

Convict profiling
Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) executive director Ade Wahyudin says that the Susrama’s remission failed to consider a variety of aspects.

“What was missed in the convict profiling study, was what were the case details, the social effect of a case such as this”, Wahyudin told Tirto.

In the same vein as Wahyudin, AJI chairperson Abdul Manan said that Widodo’s decision was very disappointing because the remission given to Susrama completely ignored the public’s sense of justice.

On Friday afternoon, Wahyudin and Manan met with the Director-General for Correctional Institutions at the Ministry for Justice and Human Rights (Kemenkum HAM), Sri Puguh Budi Utami.

Accompanied by a representative from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI), the two conveyed their complaints over the remission and handed over a petition put together by AJ, the LBH Pres and YLBHI.

“We asked that the remission for Prabangsa’s murder be revoked,” said Manan explaining the demands they took to the president.

Poor press freedom ranking
According to Manan, using the standards set by Paris-based global media freedom agency Reporters Without Borders, the state of press freedom in Indonesia is indeed very dim. Indonesia’s ranking is 124th out of 180 countries, lower even that Timor-Leste.

“It’s below 100, that’s in the underdog league, right. Categorised very bad,” said Manan.

Widodo has indeed routinely appeared at annual celebrations of National Press Day organised by the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI). However, explained Manan, this has not automatically translated into efforts to strengthen press freedom in Indonesia.

“The February event commemorated by PWI was largely ceremonial. Totally inadequate to show that he sides [with journalists]”, he said.

There are many things that Widodo should be able to do rather than just taking part in ceremonial National Press Day commemorations. For example, said Manan, asking the Kemenkum HAM to look at the proposed revisions to the Criminal Code (KUHP), specifically the new on “contempt of court”.

The current formulation is problematic because journalists can be sentenced to five years jail if their journalistic work influences a judges’ verdict.

In addition to this, there is Article 494 on revealing confidential information. Likewise, Article 309 Paragraph (1) which has the potential for multiple interpretations and is susceptible to being used to criminalise journalists.

Articles too vague
“He should, if he wants to defend the press, [be able] to initiate the creation of regulations that support a climate of press freedom. Annul the articles which endanger the independence of the press because they are too vague,” he said.

The need to revise these problematic articles is becoming more urgent bearing in mind that in the last year there have been two efforts to criminalise journalists.

Those who have fallen victim were the former editor of Serat.id, Zakki Amali and Manan himself. The two were criminalised for investigating alleged plagiarism by Semarang State University (Unnes) rector Fathur Rokhman and the IndonesiaLeaks “red book” scandal allegedly involving National Police Chief (Kapolri) General Tito Karnavian.

“The Serat.id case was clearly just a press dispute. Police should be very careful in handling this. Ideally, pushing for the case not to be handled as a criminal case, so that it can be resolved though the mechanisms of the UU Pers (Press Law), namely by asking Unnes to submit a complaint with the Press Council”, explained Manan.

“Meanwhile the IndonesiaLeaks case is very clear cut and if they want to make an issue out of reports which were carried by five different media outlets, it’s inappropriate it to deal with it as a crime. The party that feels injured, if that’s Kapolri, should set an example by dealing with the case through mechanisms which are already provided for by the UU Pers”.

Still lots of homework
There is lots of homework that Widodo which needs to prioritise in order to protect press freedom in Indonesia.

Take for example his vision, mission and action program when he first ran as a presidential candidate in the 2014 presidential election. Widodo pledge to reorganise the ownership of broadcast frequencies in the hope of preventing monopolies by groups of people or broadcasting industry cartels.

According to doctoral research by Ros Tapsell from the Australian National University which was publish as a book titled “Media Power in Indonesia” (2017), there are eight media conglomerates that monopolise the public broadcast frequencies.

Aside from the problem of media conglomerates, Widodo also needs to fix the problem of the clearing house, a mechanism aimed at screening requests for permits by foreign journalists wanting to report on Papua.

The clearing house involves 19 working unit from 12 different ministries and is known for being convoluted and time consuming.

When he attended the great harvest in Marauke regency in Papua on May 10, 2015, Widodo asserted that these procedures would be abolished. Widodo declared that there should be a transparent mechanism with objective standards used to evaluate foreign journalist permit requests to report on Papua.

Journalists spied on
“Journalists find it difficult to obtain permits to report [on Papua], they are even spied on. In other cases their fixers are intimidated”, he said.

The other no less important problem is intimidation. Based AJI’s advocacy team’s records, during Widodo term in office new patterns of violence against journalists have emerged in the form of harassment and releasing private information through social media.

In 2018 there were three cases of journalists being persecuted in the online media. The victims were journalists from kumparan.com and detik.com. Their private data was publically released after they reported on the “211 Defend Islam Action” by a group who objected to the reports that they wrote.

“No legal action is ever taken in case journalists being persecuted. But, several cases of persecution where the victims were not journalists have been pursued legally. The president must show a clearer commitment to press freedom, particularly in its real application,” he said.

Wahyudin also raised the issue of poor protection for journalists under Widodo’s watch.

“There has been absolutely no progress. He’s been exactly same as the SBY [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] era, Jokowi. He hasn’t given attention to press freedom. Perhaps he thinks it’s already safe or resolved. Yet every year there are [incidents] of violence against journalists,” said Wahyudin.

Concrete steps
The government’s role, said Wahyudin, should be to guarantee that press freedom is protected. Yet Widodo has not fully realised this.

“It’s not enough. The government must take concrete steps in resolving murder cases. [Otherwise] the effect of ignoring cases of murder and valence will just be mushrooming impunity. Our democracy [itself] will become sick,” he said.

“In general terms, Widodo’s [new] vision and mission does not address press freedom. It more prioritises infrastructure but the aspect of civil freedoms are still very lacking.”

Translated by James Balowski for the Indo-Left News Service in partnership with the Pacific Media Centre. The original title of the article was “Hari Pers Nasional: Tak Ada Progres Kebebasan Pers di Era Jokowi“.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippine website accused in ‘absurd’ seven-year-old media libel case

“This indictment is evidence that the law has been weaponised – the NBI’s own lawyers recommended the case be thrown out,” says Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. Image: Rappler

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the latest “absurd charges” that the Philippine Justice Department is planning to bring against the news website Rappler – this time libel charges in connection with an article posted in 2012 – and has called for the case to be dismissed.

The Justice Department has announced that Rappler, its editor and CEO Maria Ressa, and one of its former reporters, Reynaldo Santos Jr., are to be charged over a 2012 article about alleged ties between businessmen Wilfredo Keng and the then president of the country’s Supreme Court.

The charges, which carry a possible 12-year jail sentence, are based on the complaint that Keng brought five years later, in October 2017, under a cyber-crime law that was enacted several months after the article’s publication.

READ MORE: DOJ to indict Rappler for cyber libel

The National Bureau of Investigation dismissed the complaint in February 2018 because the law was not retroactive and because of a one-year moratorium on filing complaints, but reversed its decision the following month.

The Justice Department is reviving the case on the grounds that a principle of “continuous publication” can be applied to websites.

-Partners-

‘Grotesque persecution’
“The judicial harassment used by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to persecute Rappler’s journalists is becoming grotesque,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“It would be almost laughable if it weren’t for the terrible judicial precedent that this decision would set, if upheld. We urge the court that handles this case to show independence and wisdom by dismissing it once and for all.”

The authorities have been systematically targeting Rappler for more than a year with the aim of intimidating its journalists. Four charges of tax evasion and failing to file income tax returns were brought against Rappler and Ressa in November.

A fifth, “completely spurious”, charge was brought in December, said RSF.

In January 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced 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 Philippine Depositary Receipts to raise funds, it had sold some of its stock to foreign investors.

RSF referred this “unacceptable attack on media independence” to various international bodies.

In response to Rappler’s appeal against the SEC decision, 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 2018 on Duterte’s personal orders.

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

The Pacific Media Centre collaborates with Reporters Without Borders.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Vietnamese blogger critic missing and feared ‘kidnapped’ in Bangkok

Truong Duy Nhat’s disappearance is all the more disturbing because he is widely respected as a blogger. Image: RSF/Youtube).

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Thai authorities to shed all possible light on the disappearance of Truong Duy Nhat, a famous Vietnamese blogger who went missing in Bangkok last month, one day after going to the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to apply for refugee status.

RSF is concerned that Vietnamese agents may have kidnapped Truong Duy Nhat on January 26 , who is from the city of Danang, in central Vietnam. The Thai police say they are not holding him.

More than ten days have gone by since anyone heard from him, RSF reports.

Other Vietnamese bloggers who have applied for refugee status in Bangkok say they think he was abducted while in a shopping mall in suburban Bangkok, according to Radio Free Asia, one of the media outlets for which Nhat works.

“We urge the Thai authorities to make every effort to shed light on Truong Duy Nhat’s extremely disturbing disappearance,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“If the Thai authorities prove not to have been involved, this would mean that Vietnamese agents are no longer bothered by international law and violate a partner country’s sovereignty in order to pursue their critics. This sends an absolutely terrifying message to the community of Vietnamese bloggers who have sought refuge in Bangkok.”

-Partners-

Network of sources
Nhat’s disappearance is all the more disturbing because he is widely respected as a blogger, even within certain circles of the ruling Communist Party in Hanoi.

Bui Thanh Hieu, a blogger who has found asylum in Germany, wrote on Facebook that he suspected that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc may have ordered Nhat’s abduction.

“I think the prime minister wants Nhat arrested at all costs because he is in possession of compromising information about the prime minister’s clan in Quang Nam province,” Hieu wrote.

Quang Nam province adjoins Danang, Nhat’s home town, where the blogger has many sources to help him with his investigative reporting.

Place of refuge
Nhat used to work for state media outlets, including Danang police newspapers, until 2010, when he launched his own blog, Mot Goc Nhin Khac (Another Viewpoint), in order to be able to report and write with complete freedom.

He was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” in his blog posts. RSF included him in its list of 100 “information heroes” in 2014.

In the course of the Vietnamese government’s two-year-old crackdown on citizen-journalists, many of them have found refuge in Bangkok.

Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the lowest ranking in Southeast Asia. Thailand is ranked 140th.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timor-Leste Press Council condemns ‘crime’ against public broadcaster

Timor-Leste Press Council president Virgílio Guterres (second from right) addresses the media briefing at the council’s office in Dili. Image: TLPC.

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Timor-Leste’s Press Council (TLPC) has strongly condemned political interference in the country’s public broadcasting service (RTTL) newsroom where political-appointed advisors for the president of RTTL have interfered in its coverage.

During a press conference at the TLPC’s offices in Dili, chairperson Virgílio Guterres said it was the first political interference in RTTL’s newsroom since country’s restoration of independence.

“Press Council follows and is informed that after the recent change to the leadership of RTTL, bad interference in the newsroom has been happening. That is why the Press Council is concerned,” he said.

READ MORE: Bob Howarth’s report on Asia-Pacific united Press Councils

The condemnation was about political interference, but there was also physical interference in that certain advisors went in to the newsroom asking to change the news coverage,” Guterres told journalists.

It was a serious problem, he said, and an “act of crime” against the public as the political-appointed advisor had seized the authority of the editor-in-chief to remove the content of news stories.

-Partners-

“It is a crime against journalism as these people have seized the power of the editor-in-chief for exercising their political interests.

“The Press Council is concerned about this situation, and would like to take the opportunity to convey our concerns to the public as well also to the government bodies to look into this situation,” he said.

Sacking threat
The Press Council also condemned the head of the Office of the Secretary of State for Social Communication (SECOMS), Julio Goncalves, as he had threatened to sack RTTL journalist Constancio Vieira from his job, following his comments on freedom expression and freedom of the press on his social media account.

In an interview with Timorese media, which was also broadcast by the country’s public radio, the president of RTTL Francisco “Gari” da Silva, said he had received an official letter from the Press Council, protesting against the newsroom interference.

“We have received a protest letter from the Press Council and we held a meeting discussing the issue, which regard to the news stories that RTTL broadcast. We do appreciate the Press Council’s concerns and hope we will make self-improvements,” he told public radio.

The political interference in RTTL’s newsroom happened in the country’s broadcasting service after the former president Gil da Costa Naldo Rey, was sacked from his post by the new government, following a controversial audit that had been conducted, indicating that there were some “irregularities”.

Francisco da Silva Gari was the one who in charge of the Secretary of State for Social Communication-led audit. Weeks later he was appointed to replace Gil da Costa Naldo Rei as new president of RTTL.

Timor-Leste is ranked 95th in the Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) annual World Press Freedom Index.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media