Political crises, anti-Muslim violence, and Maria Ressa’s pushback

Supporters of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) celebrate on the street after the Supreme Court blocked Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to stay in power, in Karachi, 8 April 2022, ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images

Information restrictions during Sri Lanka protests

Massive protests were organized in Sri Lanka as the country experienced its worst financial crisis since gaining independence in 1948. Protesters blamed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for mishandling the economy, which led to fuel shortages and the higher cost of essential goods. A state of emergency was declared on 1 April to curb protests, followed by the blocking of social media platforms the following day. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has monitored at least nine journalists who were attacked or harassed by the police and injured during protests. The Free Media Movement issued a statement condemning the “anti-democratic actions taken by the government to stifle dissent and quell the voices of the people affected by its gross failure at managing the country’s economy.” Despite the repressive measures imposed by authorities, protests snowballed as more people demanded the resignation of the president. Peaceful protests across the country mobilized thousands and gathered people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Pakistan: Political crisis and violence against media

News about the Islamabad High Court striking down the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022 (PECA) for being unconstitutional was shared during the same week Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from power by Parliament. Khan’s ouster reflects the intensifying political crisis in the country, while the court decision on PECA could signal a positive development for media freedom. The Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) described the ruling as “a major step forward in creating a fair and free environment for the Pakistani media.”

Crackdown continues in Kashmir

Authorities in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir region continue to impose repressive and arbitrary measures, which include the filing of criminal cases against journalists.

Anti-Muslim violence in India

In an April post, Global Voices explores the rise in narratives propagating anti-Muslim sentiment in India. Communal violence and riots erupted in several cities during the celebration of Hindu festivals. There were reports that state-backed Hindu nationalists attacked Muslim shops and houses during the festival which led to mob violence. There has been a disturbing surge of anti-Muslim activities in recent years, especially in areas controlled by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The hashtag #StopBulldozingMuslimHouses trended on Twitter after authorities demolished illegal street structures, but it became obvious that they were targeting properties owned by Muslims. Writer Sanjukta identifies those responsible: “Most of this anti-Muslim propaganda has been carried out by right-wing Hindu nationalists on mainstream media TV channels, social media and on the streets with tacit or explicit support from state actors, including the judiciary.”

From dress codes to arrests: Challenges facing Afghanistan media

RSF has sent a letter to Richard Bennett, the UN’s new special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, about the deteriorating press freedom situation in the country and the need to stop the arbitrary arrests targeting journalists. RSF noted that new restrictions include an information and culture ministry decree banning privately-owned TV channels from retransmitting news programs provided by international broadcasters, that violate the dress code for women news presenters.

Maria Ressa pushes back against red-tagging

Nobel laureate Maria Ressa filed an administrative complaint with the Philippine Ombudsman’s office against communications undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, who has repeatedly called the Filipino-American journalist an “enemy of the state” and accused Rappler of being an “ally and mouthpiece” of the armed communist movement. Ressa joined other concerned citizens who had earlier filed similar complaints against Badoy for red-tagging opposition leaders and activists. In the Philippines, red-tagging is considered harmful because it often leads to human rights violations.

A fact-free election?

The Solicitor General also initiated a petition that led to the cancellation of Rappler’s partnership with the Commission on Elections in launching information and fact-checking activities ahead of the elections scheduled for 9 May. The Hold the Line Coalition Steering Committee has issued a statement condemning the action of the Solicitor General. “The State’s blatant attempts to suppress Rappler’s election-related fact-checking services is an unacceptable attempt to cheat the public of their right to accurate information, which is critical during elections.”

In brief

Around 116 global civil society organizations and 17 gender scholars and activists have signed a statement calling on the new president of South Korea to withdraw his pledge to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. They are concerned about the detrimental impact on women’s rights.

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IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: info@ifex.org

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IFEX

IFEX

IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: info@ifex.org