May 26, 2020

Press Freedom

Press Freedom Update May 14

The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership on May 11 called for more protection for Asian and Asian American journalists from racially-motivated attacks. In a full-page ad in The Washington Post, the press freedom group said “the escalating violence and hateful rhetoric used against Asian and Asian American journalists is not only a violation of press freedom, it also prevents comprehensive and thoughtful journalism from reaching those who need it most.”

Police in Ahmedabad, in India’s western Gujarat state, on May 11 detained journalist Dhaval Patel and charged him the next day with sedition and spreading false news amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to his lawyer Anand Yagnik. The charges are linked to an article Patel, editor of the news website Face of Nation, published on May 7 alleging that Gujarat’s chief minister may be replaced due to his handling of the pandemic. Police in India have arrested several journalists since the beginning of the pandemic, including Rahul Kulkarni in Mumbai on April 15, Andrew Sam Raja Pandian on Tamil Nadu on April 23, and Zubair Ahmed in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on April 28.

Police in Hong Kong have been attacking and detaining journalists covering the country’s pro-democracy protests. On May 10, police detained two student journalists, aged 13 and 16, from Student Depth Media, an online news outlet founded by secondary school students, and threatened to report their parents for criminal negligence. Police also pepper sprayed a photographer from newspaper Apple Daily. “Hong Kong police must allow journalists to do their jobs, and stop attacking and harassing them for covering protests,” said Steven Butler, the Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is restricting journalist visas issued to Chinese citizens in retaliation against China’s restrictions on U.S. journalists in March. The department announced on May 8 that Chinese nationals working for foreign news outlets would only be able to receive 90-day work visas. “This move by the United States only invites further harsh retaliation from China, where the expulsions of U.S. journalists have already devastated U.S.-owned news operations in the country, partly blinding the world to China’s response to COVID-19,” said Steven Butler of the CPJ. China revoked the press credentials of at least 13 U.S. journalists in March, after the U.S. designated five Chinese state media organizations as foreign missions and imposed a limit on the number of visas issued to Chinese citizens working for those outlets.

On May 5, the Philippines National Telecommunications Commission shut down ABS-CBN, the country’s largest news broadcaster. The move comes after President Duterte repeatedly threatened the station, saying in 2019 that “Your franchise will end next year. If you expect it to be renewed, I’m sorry. I will see to it that yo’re out.” The Committee to Protect Journalists wrote an open letter to Duterte calling for the station to be reopened. “The closure order amounts to an attack on independent media and a clear and present danger to press freedom in the Philippines,” wrote Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director.