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Asia

2013


For the second time this year, the U.N. Security Council took up the issue of protection of journalists. In a discussion today sponsored by the French and Guatemalan delegations, and open to NGOs, speaker after speaker and country after country hammered home the same essential facts: The vast majority of journalists murdered around the world are local reporters working in their own country, covering human rights, corruption, conflict and politics. In nine out of ten of these murders, no one is ever prosecuted.

Everyone agreed at the panel discussion I took part in yesterday in Washington that the fate of about two dozen journalists working for The New York Times and Bloomberg News in China is unresolved. No one knows what will happen by the ostensible deadline of midnight, December 31, 2013, for their expulsion. I say ostensible, because maybe the deadline can be extended under some arcane rule known only to China's immigration officials. For now, those journalists are dangling in what has come to be called "visa purgatory," a term attributed to me but which really came from one of those journalists in purgatory, that is to say, waiting in Beijing for his visa to be renewed, with whom I spoke recently.

CPJ's report, Roots of Impunity, published earlier this year, provides a glimpse of the grim realities that journalists in Pakistan face when they cross red lines. Many journalists are threatened, harassed, and intimidated by a host of actors, including members of Pakistan's security and intelligence apparatus. Some of these cases get reported, but in many instances journalists stay quiet to avoid further trouble. Almost every Pakistani journalist visiting CPJ tells me that he or she routinely receives threats.

To the group of developed democracies, such as Britain and the United States, each with increasingly restrictive attitudes toward press freedom, add Japan, which appears to be on the brink of passing a new state secrets protection law. If passed by the upper house of the Diet today, it would broaden the criteria the government uses to determine which information will be secret. Jake Adelstein, a Tokyo-based reporter who has blogged several times for CPJ, calls it "an ominous new bill" which would "give the government expanded powers to classify nearly anything as a secret and intimidate the press into silence."

Security officials examine the scene of Monday's attack on Express Media Group in Karachi. (AFP)

The Committee to Protect Journalists has joined the Alliance for Access, a coalition of Pakistani media groups, academic and student organizations, and telecommunications companies working to promote open access, in condemning Monday's attack on the offices of Express Media Group in Karachi.

For all the people who have been working on the problem of impunity for so long, the announcement on November 26 that the Third Committee of the United Nation's General Assembly had passed a resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, setting November 2 as the "International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists," was welcome news. 

In December 2012, the Committee to Protect Journalists and 27 partner organizations launched Speak Justice: Voices against Impunity as part of an international effort to seek justice for the hundreds of journalists who have been murdered around the world. Today, on International Day to End Impunity, we are taking a look back at what has happened over the last 12 months.

Next week, the Committee to Protect Journalists will be honoring four journalists from around the world at the International Press Freedom Awards, an annual recognition of courageous reporting. As the awardees from Ecuador, Egypt, and Turkey make the journey to attend the awards and benefit dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on November 26, one of the awardees will be absent.

I've known Paul Mooney since we worked together at Time Warner's Hong Kong-based magazine Asiaweek, which closed in December 2001. After that we'd overlapped in Beijing for several stints. A lot has been written about China's refusal to give him a visa to let him go back to Beijing to work as a features writer for Reuters --- a dream job for a reporter with as many clips as he has built up over the years. He's been quoted widely about what happened, but I haven't seen his full account anywhere else. So here is an email exchange with him from today (I've dropped a reference to some foreign journalists Mooney named who are also having visa problems and most likely wouldn't want to be mentioned):

With two weeks to go until the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, the government's anti-media policies remain a pressing topic. There are two links below to statements by media support groups today relating to the government's wrongful and heavy handed response to a media workshop held in Colombo this week.

The New Express's campaign to get Chen Yongzhou, 27, released from police detention last week attracted international attention, including CPJ's.  Chen had been picked up October 18 on "suspicion of damaging commercial reputation" with a series of stores alleging financial mismanagement and corruption at Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co., China's second-largest heavy equipment maker. On Wednesday and Thursday last week the Guangzhou-based New Express ran front page, big character headlines calling for their reporter's release. The paper's editors had thoroughly vetted Chen's stories and they had found only one factual error, they said in support of his reporting.

Bangladesh's Supreme Court has hardened the sentence against Abdul Quader Molla, a top Islamist of a key opposition party, from a life term to death for his role in mass killings committed during the country's war of independence from Pakistan in 1971. But what caught my eye in particular was that Molla was also convicted on a separate charge of murdering a prominent journalist, Khandoker Abu Taleb, on March 29, 1971.

China's Internet has changed fundamentally since Shi Tao was given a 10-year prison sentence in 2005. Shi's case was a marker of sorts--- the first high profile sentencing in China for online activity. The government says 40 percent of the population is online as of December 2012. That's 564 million people. In 2005, penetration was 8.5 per cent. Shi was detained in 2004 and sentenced on charges of "leaking state secrets abroad" for messages he wrote summarizing government restrictions on domestic media reporting on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. He used his Yahoo email account to post anonymous messages on a US-based pro-democracy forum. His unexpected release from prison on August 23 was announced Saturday in a statement from PEN International, an organization of writers.

Ali Chishti, who writes for The Friday Times, has gone public in Islamabad with details of his abduction and beating last Friday, August 30. Chishti is making the rounds of TV talk shows describing how he was picked up in Karachi by uniformed police driving a police vehicle, blindfolded, switched to another police vehicle, taken to a small room somewhere in Karachi, and beaten by men he does not think were police officers. After nine hours, he was dropped by the side of the road at 4:30 Saturday morning.

Another Philippine journalist was killed in a drive-by shooting on Wednesday, bringing to at least six the total slain in the country this year. In none of the cases have police determined whether they were killed because of their work as journalists or for other reasons. The investigations into the cases appear to have gone nowhere and get only brief media attention.

The government of Balochistan, the troubled southwestern province of Pakistan, registered a case against national television news channel ARY on Monday, August 26, after it aired a video clip of the destruction of the residence of Pakistan's founder, Muhammed Ali Jinnah. The case was filed under Pakistan's Anti-Terrorist Act of 1997, claiming that airing the footage could incite "violence or [...] glorify crime," in contravention of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).

The Afghan Journalist Safety Committee, which works closely with CPJ, has just published a report on media conditions and attacks on journalists for the first six months of 2013.

When the human rights watchdog for the United Nations visits Sri Lanka this weekend she should forcefully address the government's problematic record on press freedom.

When Mick Deane was killed in Egypt on Wednesday, he became the 1,000th journalist documented by CPJ as having died in direct relation to his work. The photos above, a sampling of those who have died over the past 21 years, serve as a powerful reminder of the cost of critical, independent journalism.

Nadia Sharmeen was attacked when she tried to cover a protest in April. (Ekushey TV)

It has been a turbulent year for journalists in Bangladesh. It began with blogger Asif Mohiuddin being stabbed in January as he left his office in Dhaka. The following month, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed for his writing. Four other bloggers, including Mohiuddin, were arrested in early April (all four have been released on bail, but still face criminal charges). Meanwhile, an editor of a pro-opposition newspaper is imprisoned.

Details are emerging of Sri Lanka's effort to control media coverage of an ugly attack on demonstrators by security forces last week. In Rathupaswala village in the town of Weliweriya, outside Colombo, on August 1, soldiers beat and fired on people protesting what they feared was contamination of their drinking water by a nearby factory. Most media accounts say three people died and 50 were wounded (here is AP and AFP coverage). Journalists, reports say, were singled out. 

Following reports earlier this week that New Zealand, with help from U.S. intelligence, may have spied on one of its journalists, Wellington is under fire for tracking the phone records and movement of another journalist. Ironically, this journalist came under surveillance after writing about potentially illegal government surveillance.

Concern over government surveillance of journalists has washed up on the faraway shores of New Zealand, with a report in the country's Sunday Star this week asserting that the military there, with help from U.S. intelligence, spied on an investigative journalist who had been critical of its activities in Afghanistan. 

Chinese censors have cracked down on blogger Zhu Ruifeng, an apparent signal that there are limits to the government's tolerance for citizens assisting with the exposure of corrupt officials.

On July 16, one day after the Beijing-based blogger and founder of an anti-corruption website published corruption allegations about the chief secretary of Jinjiang city in Fujian province, his online presence disappeared.

I've been making the rounds of journalists and organizations in Kabul for the last several days. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been asked to come up with a support plan for journalists after next year's presidential elections, the drawdown of international troops, and an expected reduction in international aid.

A Kashmiri youth throws a piece of brick at Indian police during a protest in Srinagar on July 18. Indian paramilitary soldiers fired at protesters in the region last week, killing four. (Reuters/Danish Ismail)

Curbing the flow of information during heightened periods of tension has become routine business by authorities in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Access to mobile Internet service was suspended Thursday after violent protests erupted in the state. Although the service was restored late that night, the episode is another example of the government's heavy-handed tactics.

A man offers evening prayers on a hilltop overlooking Kabul on Wednesday. As the devout mark the holy month of Ramadan, Afghanistan's warlords and powerbrokers must decide on a successor to President Hamid Karzai. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)

I'm in Kabul for several days, making the rounds of journalists' organizations and media houses. My brief is to see what, if anything, can be done to protect journalists after the withdrawal of NATO troops during and after 2014. But "post-2014" has much different connotations for the Afghans with whom I've spoken or been in email correspondence. They see post-2014 as the period that follows national elections. With foreign troops increasingly staying close to their bases, Afghans are fully aware their future is in their own hands.

As Sri Lanka prepares to host the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November, some journalists have wondered whether they will be able to access the summit given the island nation's abysmal press freedom record.

Jean-Pascal Couraud was known for his hard-hitting investigative reporting. (AFP)

Since Jean-Pascal Couraud's disappearance in mid-December 1997 his friends had been fighting to debunk the notion that he had committed suicide. In 2004 they had thought they could prove that the 37-year-old muckraker had been a victim of foul play. Vetea Guilloux, a member of the local militia Groupe d'intervention de Polynésie (GIP), had alleged that two of his colleagues had killed the investigative journalist. He soon retracted his claim, apparently fearing retaliation.  

Many international correspondents in China believe reporting conditions have worsened over the past year, according to a new survey by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China that also finds the Chinese government has "increasingly resorted to threats and intimidation against foreign media."

Almost eight years have passed since the murder of Bangladeshi journalist Gautam Das, but the slow wheels of justice have finally rotated. Late last month, a court sentenced nine individuals to life in prison in connection with the scribe's murder. Many local journalists have hailed the verdict as a landmark, the first time a Bangladeshi court has successfully prosecuted a murder of a journalist.

A defaced picture of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is displayed during an annual pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on July 1.(AP/Vincent Yu)

In "Dark Clouds on the Horizon," the Hong Kong Journalists Association's latest annual report, the group warns that China is tightening its grip over Hong Kong media. The findings come at a time when attacks on a pro-democracy media group, Next Media, have raised fears of aggression against news outlets known for being critical of China. 

Demonstrators fill Hong Kong's financial district. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Tens of thousands of residents demonstrated on the streets of Hong Kong on Monday, the 16th anniversary of the city's return to Chinese rule. The protests have become an annual rite, but the demonstrators' demands were quite specific this year. They wanted the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and they called for direct elections. These demonstrators look around and see eroding freedoms and what one commentator, Emily Lau, called "a rule of law in a precarious state." Journalists are uneasy as well. Vague and potentially onerous aspects of recently passed privacy legislation could put them at risk of harsh punishment.

In a Hong Kong mall, a television monitor shows Snowden. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Edward Snowden's global travels have highlighted the chasm between the political posturing and actual practices of governments when it comes to free expression. As is well known now, the former government contractor's leaks exposed the widespread phone and digital surveillance being conducted by the U.S. National Security Agency, practices at odds with the Obama administration's positioning of the United States as a global leader on Internet freedom and its calls for technology companies to resist foreign demands for censorship and surveillance. 

In our report, "Roots of Impunity: Pakistan's Endangered Press and the Perilous Web of Militancy, Security, and Politics," we included a long list of recommendations for the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to undertake to combat assaults on journalists and impunity in their murders. But there is a step Sharif could take immediately to address one overtly hostile act against journalists.

Among the more 200,000 Pakistanis living in London is Altaf Hussain, leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. This powerful political party is widely thought to be behind the murder of reporter Wali Khan Babar, a rising star at Geo TV who was shot dead in Karachi in 2011. His coverage focused on politically sensitive topics such as extortion, targeted killings, electricity thefts, land-grabbing, and riots.

Diplomats are charged with promoting cordial and constructive ties between nations. But Chinese embassy officials in France and Thailand appear bent on fostering fear and disgust with recent efforts to harass and intimidate France 24 reporter Cyril Payen.

The rapid growth of revenue-hungry Indian media and recent scandals involving news outlets have prompted growing calls for external regulation, raising concerns about independence of the press.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif talks to journalists in Lahore. (Reuters/Mohsin Raza)

Pakistan's general elections in May, though marred by violence that left more than 100 dead, was a reaffirmation of the people's commitment to the democratic process. Voters proved once again that they can make decisions based on their own political interests--and not because of intimidation by those who would perpetrate violence. The media, with their nonstop coverage, arrived as full-fledged partners in the democratic process and were intrinsic to the first civilian transfer of power after the completion of a five-year term by a democratically elected government. Now, the question is: What will come next for the media under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government?

In Sri Lanka, where there has seldom been good news for the media in recent years, things have taken a further turn for the worse, as well as a turn for the bizarre. With President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government secure in its 2010 electoral mandate, its leaders have made fresh moves to tighten their control of the press. There is a plan afoot to re-criminalize defamation, and legislation has been proposed for a code of ethics that threatens to give the government a legal basis to quash journalism it deems "unethical." All this comes ahead of November's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, which seems sure to go ahead despite calls for boycotts from several quarters because of the government's poor human rights record.

Lohini Rathimohan, a former television journalist from Sri Lanka, faces an unclear future. The 28-year-old is among 15 Tamil refugees still sheltered in a single room of an aluminum factory at Dubai's Jebel Ali port whose official statuses remain uncertain.

Dear President Xi and President Obama,

You will both have received many public and private letters of advice prior to your meeting on Friday and Saturday in California. They will urge you to take up specific issues ranging from military and trade concerns to human rights. That diversity of concern is an indicator of how complex the relationships between your two countries are. They lend themselves to no easy solutions, and it is doubtful there will be immediate, radical change when you and your teams conclude the talks. 

Tens of thousand of people commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Hong Kong's Victoria Park. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Today, the 24th anniversary of the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square, a Chinese state-run newspaper ran a piece justifying censorship of the Web by citing recent attempts at media regulation abroad.

A memorial to Polenghi (Reuters)

EDITOR'S NOTE: A court in Thailand ruled today that Italian photojournalist Fabio Polenghi was shot and killed by a bullet fired by a soldier during a government crackdown on street protesters on May 19, 2010.  The inquest ruling established the circumstances surrounding his death but failed to apportion blame to any individual military commanders or politicians in power at the time.

Elisabetta Polenghi, Fabio's sister, indicated after the trial that she will pursue criminal charges to bring those directly responsible for her brother's death to account. CPJ Senior Southeast Asia Representative Shawn Crispin was in attendance at today's verdict and at an evening press conference with Elisabetta Polenghi at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand. The following are excerpts of Crispin's statement at the press conference:

CPJ recognized jailed Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen in 2012. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images for CPJ)

In a better world, it is usually a time for joy when a prisoner nears his or her release date. Jailed Tibetan journalists and their families do not live in that world. They live in a crueler place, where freedom is a distant mirage that might never be reached, and exhaustion or death is the reality.

U.S. President Barack Obama and President Thein Sein of Burma meet in the White House. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

Burmese President Thein Sein made a historic visit to the White House on May 19, the latest in a series of high-level symbolic exchanges between the two nations. While Thein Sein has been regularly commended by U.S. officials for his broad democratic reform program, President Barack Obama's praise this week overlooked a significant backtracking on promised media-related reforms.

The wife of Philippines journalist Gerardo Ortega looks at his picture. (AFP/Noel Celis)

We received an unusual email last week. Michaella Ortega wrote to tell us that Marlon Recamata, who confessed to shooting her father, Philippine journalist Gerardo Ortega, in 2011, had been convicted and sentenced to life for the crime.

Twenty-four-year-old Bai Lu was just four days into her new job as a journalist at the Urumqi Evening Post when she was killed. She and her colleague, Chen Aiying, were struck by a bulldozer while reporting at a major construction project on April 18 in the city of Urumqi in Xinjiang province. Chen was seriously injured.

A Red Shirt protester holds a portrait of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra at a rally in Bangkok on May 8. (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

To head off rising tensions between supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and cartoonist Somchai Katanyutanan, who faces possible criminal defamation charges for critical comments he posted on his personal Facebook page, Thailand's government has to make sure police fully investigate this weekend's attack on Thai Rath, the country's largest circulation daily newspaper. The government's public sensitivity to expression such as Somchai's has spurred recent political violence in Thailand, including threats against journalists. 

Six patients, front, who have recovered from the H7N9 strain of bird flu pose for photographs with doctors and nurses before being discharged from a hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on April 27. (Reuters/China Daily)

Almost two months have passed since President Xi Jinping took office. Despite expectations for greater transparency, Beijing continues to try to suppress information on a broad range of issues from human rights to public health.

As if a faltering media industry and rising risks to endangered journalists as NATO reduces its forces in 2014 aren't bad enough, add in a president pandering to religious conservatives in a pre-presidential election run-up. Reporting from Kabul, Reuters said Wednesday:  

A police van takes defendants in the rape trial to court. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

A British journalist trying to cover the Delhi gang rape trial was asked to leave the courtroom on Tuesday after the prosecution objected to the presence of the international press. Andrew Buncombe, a correspondent for The Independent of London, was ejected from a court in the Indian capital even though a wide-ranging order restricting press coverage had been lifted last month. 

As political turmoil continues between Islamists and secularists in Bangladesh, the climate for press freedom is rapidly deteriorating. The tensions stem from an ongoing war crimes tribunal tasked with prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity, and other crimes dating back to the 1971 war of independence. 

There is good news from Strasbourg that follows up on my entry from earlier this week, "European Parliament has chance to take on Vietnam." Today, the European Parliament did exactly that when they unanimously adopted an Urgent Resolution on Vietnam. It was a wide-ranging document, but a large part was devoted the freedom of expression issues that are central to CPJ's concerns. In Article 7, the European Parliament:

On Thursday, April 18, the European Parliament will discuss Vietnam's human rights in a plenary session. At the top of the agenda will be freedom of expression. Over the weekend, CPJ's Brussels-based Senior Adviser Jean-Paul Marthoz blogged about the issues the parliament must confront in Le Soir.  

A short note to follow up on an alert we posted Wednesday on the threatened deportation of Lohini Rathimohan  (also spelled Lokini), a former television journalist and one of 19 Tamil refugees facing deportation from the United Arab Emirates. Earlier reports said the refugees, who reached Dubai illegally, could be deported this week.

Tibetan blogger Woeser waves from the balcony of her home in Beijing on March 8. She was named an International Woman of Courage by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, but rather than being allowed to accept it, she was placed under house arrest. (Reuters/Petar Kujundzic)

As John Kerry visits China this weekend in his first trip there as U.S. secretary of state, he should take the opportunity to engage Chinese leaders on their problematic record regarding press freedom. 

Umar Cheema, a CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner in 2011, was a strong runner-up for this year's Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia, awarded for the last 10 years by the Asia Society in New York. Umar's report, Representation Without Taxation, analyzed the tax returns of Pakistani members of parliament for 2011.

Activists demonstrate in Dhaka over the weekend, calling for bloggers to be given the death penalty. (Reuters/Andrew Biraj)

This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of Islamists took to the streets in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, demanding death for bloggers whose work they see as blasphemous. The demonstrations highlight the deteriorating climate for journalists, both those whose work is the target of the protests and those who have tried to cover the events. Several journalists were assaulted while covering the day-long demonstrations, including reporter Nadia Sharmin of the private broadcaster Ekushey Television. She was assaulted by a group of 50 to 60 Islamists who threw her to the ground, beat her, and told her that reporting was an unfit profession for a woman, news reports said.

A man reads the Southern Weekly cover story at a newsstand in Beijing on January 10. (Reuters/Jason Lee)

Three days into his retirement, Zeng Li (曾礼) died yesterday at age 61, apparently of intestinal bleeding. Surprisingly, his March 28 farewell letter has spread across China's social media sites and blogs. The letter is an apology, an explanation of sorts, and an admission of regret regarding the latter part of his career. Zeng served in Southern Weekly's internal censorship program--his title there most likely translates best as "news examiner."

Indian policemen beat an opposition activist during a protest outside the Odisha state chief minister's office in Bhubaneswar, India, on March 25. (AP/Biswaranjan Rout)

Anyone who has been to India or is familiar with the country knows how chaotic it can be: from the congestion on the streets of Delhi to the messy way in which democracy functions. And for journalists, covering the chaos of India can be risky business. This week alone, Indian law enforcement officials assaulted two journalists covering demonstrations in different corners of the country.

V.K. Anand, lawyer for Ram Singh, a man on trial for the gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old student aboard a New Delhi bus, addresses the media outside a hospital in New Delhi on March 11 after Singh was found dead in prison. (AP/Saurabh Das)

In a welcome move, Indian media will finally be allowed to cover court proceedings in the rape case that shook India's conscience. On Friday, the Delhi High Court lifted a gag order on media covering the ongoing trial of those accused of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in Delhi in December. 

Today marks International Women's Day. Hashtags like #IWD and #InternationalWomensDay have been trending on Twitter. Among the twitterati who voiced their support for women's rights was Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He tweeted: 

In front of the Parliament building in Islamabad on January 28, journalists demonstrate a spate of recent killings. (Reuters/Faisal Mahmood)

Owais Toheed, head of ARY News, cancelled his speaking slot for Wednesday at the conference I'm attending in Islamabad. Organized by UNESCO, the Open Society Foundations, Intermedia, and International Media Support, the meeting's title says it all: International Conference on Safety and Security of Journalists in Pakistan. The reason Toheed couldn't attend is because he was tearing toward Hyderabad, where one of ARY's investigative camera crews was attacked earlier today. 

Confusion surrounds the case of imprisoned Indian journalist Naveen Soorinje, who was jailed for exposing an attack on young men and women last summer by extremists belonging to the Hindu Jagran Vedike, self-appointed moral police in coastal Karnataka. Soorinje's report helped lead to the arrest of dozens of attackers. But Karnataka state--ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)--has grouped him with the very attackers he exposed. Soorinje's continued imprisonment warrants a look at the larger picture in coastal Karnataka.

On February 13, Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that Sri Lanka's government has not taken enough steps recommended by its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Although the LLRC is seen as a flawed attempt to heal Sri Lanka after decades of fratricidal conflict, last year the Human Rights Council adopted a U.S. motion calling on the government to act on the LLRC's recommendations. President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government ignored the resolution, but the Americans say they will make a similar motion at this year's meeting of the 22nd session of the UNHRC, which opens on February 25 in Geneva.

Questions surrounding the death of Dennis Aranas, accomplice-turned-witness to the murder of Filipino journalist Gerardo Ortega, have increased over the past week. Their answers beg yet another question: will the masterminds behind Ortega's murder succeed in eluding justice?  

Here is a quick pointer to one of Sri Lanka's few remaining independent media sources, Groundviews, which just posted a lengthy look at the president's newfound interest in social media: "The Sri Lankan President's Twitter archive and Propaganda 2.0: New challenges for online dissent." In a country where there isn't all that much to laugh about, Groundviews pokes some fun at President Mahinda Rajapaksa's recently launched Twitter account, @PresRajapaksa

Indian journalist Naveen Soorinje continues to languish in prison despite last week's decision by the Karnataka state cabinet to withdraw charges against him. New developments this week are challenging his release. And his continued imprisonment raises a larger question about the role of journalists at the occurrence of a crime.

Haroon at CPJ's 2011 award ceremony. (Barbara Nitke)

The highly respected Pakistani editor Ayesha Haroon first came to CPJ's New York office in July 2011, along with her husband, Faisal Bari, and Absar Alam, both of whom work for the Open Society Foundations. We talked about ways to confront the dangerous conditions facing Pakistani journalists. It was a bad year: Seven journalists would be killed before 2011 concluded, making Pakistan the deadliest nation in the world for the press. The year before, eight had died.

It was a great discussion, genuinely exciting, as we talked through possible ideas. Ayesha was a quiet presence at first, but as ideas started flowing, she served as a reality checker for the rest of us. We all knew there are no quick solutions to the problems for journalists in Pakistan, so we looked for practical projects that would tackle them in the mid- or long-term. The meeting ended, the email trails followed, a plan evolved. In the months after, my family lost my 97-year-old mother, and I received gracious notes from the people who had been at that first meeting.

Although Naveen Soorinje is still in jail, there may be some good news. Today, 86 days after his arrest, the state cabinet in Karnataka decided to withdraw charges against him.

The New York Times reported Thursday that, after four months, it has expelled what it believes to be China-based hackers from its computer system and has, so far, kept them from breaking back in. The paper said a group had been "infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees." The paper linked the attacks to a Times investigation, published in October, finding that the relatives of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao "had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings."

Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai condemned arrests in the 8-year-old murder case of a radio journalist. (Reuters/Rajendra Chitrakar)

Lau Tzu once said: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In Nepal, getting to that first step has been a tumultuous process. Tomorrow, a court in the western district of Dailekh is expected to formally begin hearings in the 2004 murder case of journalist Dekendra Raj Thapa.

Journalists, rights activists, and opposition lawmakers, with Sandya Eknelygoda in the center, protest attacks on journalists and authorities' failure to punish the culprits in Colombo Tuesday. (AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Black January commemorations in Colombo have become an annual event. Tuesday's demonstration was the second. The protest aims to recall the series of killings and attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka in recent years, many of them occurring in Januaries past. All of them have gone untried and unpunished, sustaining the country's perfect record of impunity for those who want to silence media by murder.

Three years ago, on January 24, 2010, columnist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda vanished on his way to work to cover the final campaigning in Sri Lanka's bitterly contested presidential election. He has not been heard from since. The pro-opposition website he worked for, Lanka eNews, has been repeatedly attacked, its offices hit with arson, its staff arrested and harassed, its editor driven into exile in England.

Some news which appears to be good from China, and some that isn't: Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen has been moved to a women's prison where conditions are not as harsh, according to his friends and associates at the Switzerland based group Filming for Tibet. They say that Wangchen has been transferred to the Qinghai Provincial Women's Prison, the main prison for women in China's Qinghai province. He had been held at the Xichuan labor camp in Siling, in eastern Tibet.

What is the humanitarian function of journalism in wartime? How does international humanitarian law protect journalists? Why is impunity the most important challenge facing journalists working in conflict zones?

A supporter of Southern Weekly newspaper outside its headquarters in Guangzhou holds banners reading, 'Support Southern Weekly. Protest intervention in media. Defend press freedom.' (AP/Vincent Yu)

There is cautious optimism among China media watchers this morning over the news that a deal has been struck between censors and protesting journalists at China's Southern Weekly news magazine, which is also known as Southern Weekend. The journalists will not face reprisals for their protest, and propaganda authorities will not repeat the editing stunt (which transformed a pro-reform New Year editorial into a tribute to the Communist Party) that sparked the dispute, according to The Associated Press.

Indian policemen stand guard near India Gate in New Delhi. A magistrate ruled Monday that the media will not be allowed to attend the trial of five men accused of raping and killing a young student. (AP/Tsering Topgyal)

Even though members of the Karnataka state government have provided broad assurances that they will drop charges against Naveen Soorinje, the young journalist remains imprisoned two months after he was arrested for exposing an assault on women by Hindu extremists. Welcome to Incredible India, where a journalist can be locked up for documenting a crime against women even as millions express outrage over medieval mindsets following the fatal gang rape of a Delhi student in December.

Demonstrators gather near the headquarters of Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Monday. (Reuters/James Pomfret)

In the past few days, Chinese journalists and their supporters have launched startlingly direct opposition to Communist Party rule, protesting a heavy-handed move by Guangdong's provincial propaganda department to unilaterally replace a Southern Weekly editorial on constitutionalism with pro-Party bromides. Defying censors' directives, media organizations around the country continue to post messages of support of Southern Weekly reporters who have gone on strike and called for the dismissal of provincial propaganda chief Tuo Zhen. It is the 21st century equivalent of carrying placards through Tiananmen Square.

Vietnam's crackdown on independent bloggers hit a new low in recent days with reports of sexual violence perpetrated by state officials against a prominent online reporter.  

An editorial in the January 3 edition of Southern Weekly was changed from a call for constitutional rule into a tribute praising the Communist Party. (AP/Alexander F. Yuan)

Staffers at the Guangdong-based Southern Weekly magazine have publicly expressed their outrage at the heavy handed intervention of propaganda officials who unilaterally rewrote a New Year's editorial calling for improved constitutional rule in China. A piece extolling the virtues of the Communist Party ran in its place. Sixty staffers posted an open letter to the provincial government accusing propaganda officials of "raping" the paper's editorial procedures, The Associated Press reports. Apparently, the editorial was changed by censors after the magazine had closed and was being readied for the printer. Staff did not know of the changes until the piece appeared in print and online.

The fleeting nature of YouTube's availability in Pakistan this weekend--the site, which has been banned in the country since September, was unblocked for a whole three minutes--is only the latest emblem of Islamabad's erratic and confounding approach to Internet censorship. Those who have been hoping for less opaque tactics apparently are in for disappointment.

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