Attacks on the Press 2005: Asia Snapshots

Attacks and developments throughout the region



• The chief judge of the County Court in the state of Victoria filed contempt charges in October against two reporters for the Melbourne-based Herald Sun who refused to divulge the source for a story on government plans to cut veterans’ benefits. Gerard McManus and Michael Harvey could face jail if found in contempt.


• The government repeatedly harassed the daily Suara Timor Lorosae in February, apparently in retaliation for its reporting on famine-related deaths. The Land and Property Department ordered the newspaper’s management to vacate its premises. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri imposed an indefinite boycott of the paper, banning its journalists from attending official press conferences.


• Eight journalists were injured in Srinagar on July 25 after a grenade attack by Islamic militants triggered fighting with security forces. Journalists reporting on the initial explosion were caught in the crossfire of the ensuing gun battle. Cameraman Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat was seriously wounded.


• After the tsunami of late December 2004, Indonesian authorities allowed local and foreign media unprecedented access to the hard-hit province of Aceh. Some restrictions on foreign journalists traveling outside of Banda Aceh and on reporters covering military affairs remained in effect. Local and foreign journalists were harassed and threatened by intelligence officers after trying to report on the conflict between the government and the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which signed a peace accord in August.

• Using antiquated criminal laws dating back to Indonesia’s colonial era, a district court in the city of Lampung found two journalists guilty of defamation in May and sentenced them to nine months in prison. Darwin Ruslinur, chief editor of the weekly tabloid Koridor, and Budiono Saputro, the paper’s managing editor, were freed pending appeal.

• Elyuddin Telaumbanua, a reporter based on the island of Nias, was reported missing five days after leaving his house on an assignment for the Medan-based Berita Sore in August. An editor at the newspaper told local media that Telaumbanua may have disappeared while investigating a murder in the island’s southern district. He had also recently reported on criminal gangs, local corruption, and irregularities in local elections. Colleagues feared the journalist had been murdered.


• In February, police questioned Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi for two hours in connection with a contributor’s September 2004 posting to his Web log. The contributor made a disparaging remark about Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s view of Islam. Ooi promptly deleted the message and issued an apology, but police filed their own complaint against him. Sources reported that Ooi was investigated under a section of the nation’s penal code that prohibits acts fostering “religious disunity,” a charge that carries a penalty of two to five years in prison.

• The National Security Bureau of Malaysia confiscated the June 2 edition of the Epoch Times, a Chinese-language newspaper associated with the Falun Gong, and banned subsequent editions of the publication. In July, the government sent an official letter accusing the paper of presenting a negative image of China.


• In November, the government-controlled news agency denounced CNN as a “reptile broadcasting service” and “a political waiting maid for the U.S. administration” after the U.S. news channel aired footage of a public execution said to have been smuggled from the country by a defector. The Korean Central News Agency said that while the government had allowed CNN rare foreign access to the country in the past, the network had “dug its own grave” by broadcasting “lies” about the judicial process in North Korea.


• A government agency threatened to file a defamation suit against blogger Jiahao Chen, prompting him to shut down his Web site on April 26 and post an apology. Officials frequently use civil libel suits in Singapore to silence dissent in the traditional media, but this was the first reported threat of legal action against a blogger.

• Police began an investigation in May of independent documentary filmmaker Martyn See under the country’s Films Act. The act bans “party political” films; violation of the ban carries a penalty of up to 100,000 Singapore dollars (about US$60,000) in fines or two years in jail. See was forced to withdraw “Singapore Rebel”–which chronicles the civil disobedience of an opposition activist–from the Singapore International Film Festival in March. Police later questioned See and confiscated his camera and existing copies of the film.