Asia Pacific: A win for net neutrality, a devastating setback for press freedom
March 3, New Delhi: An arrest of a university student for sedition and subsequent attacks against journalists covering the story in India sparked international attention in February, drawing criticism from scholars and observers worldwide in defence of freedom of expression. Jawaharlal Nehru University student union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on charges of sedition and 'anti-national' activities on 12 February, igniting widespread protests and debates on free speech. Media personnel covering courts in Delhi were threatened, manhandled and beaten by lawyers on 15 February as they were trying to cover Kanhaiya Kumar's hearing.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed its concern over the worsening state of press freedom in India following the incident, while the International Federation of Journalists also condemned the attacks. According to media reports, hundreds of local journalists marched to the Supreme Court on 16 February to protest the alleged police inaction during the attacks, and called on the government to launch an inquiry into the incident.
Safety of journalists is a serious issue in India, as killings take place with impunity. On 13 February, three gunmen on motorcycles fatally shot journalist Karun Misra in the state of Uttar Pradesh, making it the third case in the state since June 2015, according to the CPJ. While the motive was not immediately clear, the CPJ said the killing of Misra, who was Ambedkarnagar bureau chief of the Hindi daily Jan Sandesh Times, showed “India was becoming a more dangerous place to practice journalism and that Uttar Pradesh, in particular, has emerged as a dangerous place to be a journalist.”
The Philippines saw the first journalist killing for the year this month, when radio broadcaster Elvis Oradniza of the Pagadian City-based dxWO Power 99 FM, south of Manila, was shot dead by an unidentified assailant on 16 February. According to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Oradniza was said to have been reporting and commenting on illegal drugs and illegal gambling in Pitogo town before he was killed. CMFR said that if proven work-related, his killing would be the 151st case of journalist killed in the line of duty since 1986 and 30th under the current government of President Benigno Aquino III.
In response to the attacks against journalists in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree on 31 January to facilitate media activity and fight against impunity for crimes of violence against journalists. Reporters Without Borders (RWB) welcomed the decree, which came after a series attacks against journalists, including the fatal shooting of senior Afghan broadcast journalist Mohammad Zubair Khaksar and the beating of freelance reporter Yahya Jawahari. The CPJ said that while the government has made promises to address the situation, it should find an effective method of reversing the hostile environment for the media.
The Oslo Times