Attacks on the Press in 2008: Asia Developments



• Cartoonist Arifur Rahman was freed from Dhaka Central Jail on March 21. He was detained in September 2007, supposedly to prevent him from committing “a prejudicial act” against public order, after the daily Prothom Alo published his cartoon of a boy calling a cat “Muhammad.” Some Muslims considered the cartoon offensive and staged protests. In February 2008, the High Court declared Rahman’s detention unlawful. He had been held under emergency rules in place since the interim government took over in January 2007, according to court documents obtained by CPJ. Rahman’s release came after a separate charge for having damaged “religious sentiment” was dropped, his lawyer, Sara Hossain, told CPJ.

• Rabiul Islam, a journalist for the Daily Sunshine, a Rajshahi-based Bangla-language newspaper, told CPJ that plainclothes police arrested him without a warrant on March 28 in Rajshahi, in northwest Bangladesh. He was held for 12 hours in the Durgapur neighborhood police station. Islam had accused the station’s officers of corruption in his articles, which had led to the transfers of some personnel, he said.

• The interim military government of Fiji expelled Evan Hannah, the Australian manager of the leading daily Fiji Times, on May 2, an act the paper characterized as official intimidation for critical reporting. Russell Hunter, the Australian manager of The Fiji Sun, a rival paper, was deported in February on grounds of threatening national security after his paper’s reports on alleged government corruption, news accounts said. Hannah’s deportation order cited work permit irregularities, but Fiji’s National Security and Immigration minister, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, said Hannah’s “actions were breaching national security,” according to the BBC.
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• Blogger Gopalan Nair, a former Singapore citizen who obtained U.S. citizenship in 2005, was sentenced to three months in jail on September 18. He was found guilty on charges of insulting two judges. Nair was accused of insulting the judge presiding over a libel case filed by Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in comments published in his blog, Singapore Dissident. Nair was in Singapore to attend a hearing to determine damages owed to the Lees in the libel case, which was sparked by a 2006 story in The New Democrat newspaper.

• A High Court judge in Singapore ruled in September that the Far Eastern Economic Review defamed Singapore’s leaders in a 2006 article, according to international news reports.  Justice Woo Bih Li decided the case in a summary judgment, dismissing the magazine’s arguments that the article constituted fair comment, according to the BBC. The case stemmed from an August 2006 piece that described one of the country’s prominent opposition leaders and cited a lack of governmental transparency.  Damages had not been awarded in late year. The ruling Lee family has made a practice of filing defamation suits and extracting damages or settlements from publications such as the London-based Economist magazine, the U.S. financial news service Bloomberg, and The International Herald Tribune, according to CPJ research.

• The High Court found the Asian Wall Street Journal and two of its editors in contempt for publishing editorials and a letter that allegedly damaged the reputation of the judicial system. In its November ruling, the court fined the newspaper 25,000 Singapore dollars (US$16,500). The two editorials, published in June and July, questioned the judiciary’s independence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the ruling People’s Action Party. The letter was written by Chee Soon Juan, head of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.
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• The government of South Korea ordered award-winning documentary filmmaker Kim Young Me to return home from Iraq, where she was embedded with U.S. forces in Diyala province, on August 3. In 2007, the South Korean government enacted a criminal law that blocked South Koreans from traveling to Afghanistan, Iraq, or Somalia. Kim did not get permission from the Foreign Ministry for her trip, she told CPJ. She risked punishment of up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 3 million won ($2,890), but she had not been charged by late year.
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ASIA: Regional Analysis
Media Freedom Stalls as China Sets the Course
ASIA: Country Summaries

Afghanistan Pakistan
Burma Philippines
China Sri Lanka
India Thailand
Malaysia Vietnam

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