Kicking at the cornerstone of democracy The State of Press Freedom in Australia 2012
PRESS FREEDOM IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION By Kate Bice
Radio journalist Farukh Lega Sultani interviews the spokesman of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, 2011 Photograph by Matthew Chlosta, Creative Commons
Afghanistan An 18-month kidnap saga involving two French journalists and their three Afghan interpreters and assistants ended with their release in June 2011. An Afghan journalist was killed in an insurgent attack that caused mass casualties in the province of Uruzgan in August 2011 and an Iranian cameraman died while filming a pitched battle between NATO forces and Islamic militants in one of Kabul’s most protected neighbourhoods. Journalism continues to grow in seriousness and commitment, though the environment of insecurity and the frequent interventions of political actors and the clergy continue to retard the momentum for positive changes.
Burma Imprisoned journalists and writers were released under a general relaxation of media control. Nine journalists were released in 2011, including blogger and comedian Zarganara and writer and publisher of the Myanmar Tribune, Aung Kyaw San. Under a large-scale amnesty in January 2012, 17 more journalists and bloggers were released. They included 13 journalists working for the Burmese exile radio and television station Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB). According to DVB, nine of its reporters remained in prison. Many were subjected to torture in attempts to extract information about other members of the network of undercover video reporters. However, the government continued its close control of the media, tightening access to the internet and pressuring journalists to self-censor.
China A journalist was killed and others were physically harassed, detained, tortured and silenced through various means in the People’s Republic of China. An investigative journalist, Li Xiang, was stabbed to death and his laptop stolen in Luoyang City, Henan Province, in September 2011, while he was pursuing a story about black market cooking oil, a high profile crime in the area. Local police classified the crime as a robbery, a claim contested by Li’s colleagues. In numerous cases, the authorities used state secrecy laws to harass journalists. Liu Xianbin, of Sichuan, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power” on the basis of several articles he wrote for overseas media. Ji Xuguang was accused of revealing state secrets while investigating a civil servant who had kidnapped and imprisoned