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WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY EVENTS IN ASIA-PACIFIC

No surprises that China is the focus of many IFEX members on World Press Freedom Day. 30 April marks 100 days before the launch of the world's biggest sports event: the Olympic Games, kicking off in Beijing on 8 August. Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA) has teamed up with the International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, PEN, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and others to start the countdown with "One Dream: Free Expression In China". The four-day campaign, not coincidentally ending on 3 May, all happens in Hong Kong, to "reaffirm the freedoms that already exist in Hong Kong and raise the question of why (campaigns) cannot take place in Beijing nor anywhere else in the country," says HKJA. Besides discussing the press freedom conditions foreign and local journalists encounter in China and Hong Kong, participants will also parade to the Chinese government on World Press Freedom Day to submit a petition and their recommendations, amid an exhibition and arts fair. Email: hkja (@) hkja (.) org (.) hk

"China holds a record no one can break," says WAN. With at least 30 journalists and 50 cyber-dissidents in prison, China is the world's largest jailer of journalists. Then there are the foreign journalists, who are regularly harassed and even expelled - remember Tibet? So this World Press Freedom Day, WAN had taken up what they call the real Olympic challenge: to "Free the Press in China!" They want to hold the Chinese authorities to their promise to improve human rights ahead of the Games. WAN is asking newspapers worldwide to show their support by publishing interviews, articles, cartoons and more, available free in six languages - English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and of course, Chinese - at: http://www.worldpressfreedomday.org

Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than two dozen cases of violence against journalists in Sri Lanka - much of it at the hands of government officials. In not one case of attack or threat have the police taken action to bring the offenders to account. As part of its "Stop the War on Journalists in Sri Lanka" campaign, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is holding a silent march on 6 May. Starting at Buddha Statue in Viharamaha Devi Park in Colombo, the noiseless group will walk to the President's office to demand immediate action against the war on the media. Look out for banners across Colombo that will be strategically hung around the city the day before. See: http://www.ifj-asia.org/

IFJ Asia-Pacific is also launching its annual South Asia press freedom report. This year's theme is "Press Imprisoned", for all those who ended up in jail for their professional media work. Most likely it will be a long list, considering recent events in Pakistan. The report will be available on IFJ's new regional website on 3 May: http://www.ifj-asia.org/

Last year, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in Indonesia campaigned tirelessly to appeal the Supreme Court's decision to make "Time" magazine cough up more than US$100 MILLION in damages to former President Suharto for a story that accused him and his family of amassing billions during his rule. Just this month, the government passed an Internet law that makes spreading defamatory information online punishable with up to six years in jail. So this World Press Freedom Day, AJI is tackling one of the biggest threats to press freedom in the country and the region - criminal defamation - in an international workshop on 9 and 10 May in Yogyakarta. Besides getting everyone to agree that it's a problem, AJI hopes to build a regional network of activists, lawyers and anyone else to advocate for defamation reform. It's off to a good start, with speakers lined up from a number of quality papers and unions from the neighbouring countries. Contact: sekretariat (@) ajiindonesia (.) org

As the rice (price) crisis dominates the headlines in the Philippines, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility is commemorating 3 May by devoting its May 2008 issue of "PJR (Philippine Journalism Review) Reports" to a critical and timely issue: the economic conditions of Filipino journalists, particularly those working in local communities. Check for its release here: http://www.cmfr.com.ph/_pjrreports/pjr_08.html

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is running with UNESCO's official theme and is co-hosting a regional panel on access to information and empowerment of people on 2 May in Bangkok. Panellists include reps from CMFR, the independent news website Malaysiakini.com and the Thai Public Broadcasting Service. See: http://www.seapa.org . SEAPA's Cambodian partner, the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), will be doing the same but with a Cambodian twist in Phnom Penh on 4 May. Email: umsarin (@) hotmail (.) com

In Bangladesh, ARTICLE 19 and IFJ are teaming up with their local partners, including MassLine Media Centre (MMC) and Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC), on 3 and 4 May to give a leg up to free expression monitoring in the country. Women's access to info is unquestionably on the agenda, with 64 female grassroots journalists attending. Contact: ifj (@) ifj-asia (.) org then check out: http://www.article19.org for a report

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in Australia knows that good food is the way to your pocketbook. That's why it's holding its annual press freedom dinner on 2 May under the theme "Breaking the Shackles". All proceeds will go to the Alliance's Safety and Solidarity Appeal, which raises funds to protect journalists and their families working in the dangerous Asia-Pacific region. Last year, a massive $60k was raised. While eating and giving, journalists and entertainers and thinkers will also get first glimpse of the MEAA's 2008 press freedom report, and will find out how the new government compares to the old one, which was bent on controlling information last year. Look out for the report here: http://www.alliance.org.au/

Other IFEX member events:

- The Thai Journalists Association has come out with a meaty report that illustrates how Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej leads the way at discrediting the media. Email: reporter (@) inet (.) co (.) th and see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93336/

- Caught in the throes of a civil war, the Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka says the media is under siege like never before: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93215/

- The International Press Institute's Nepal committee congratulates those journalists who got the news out during the recent constituent assembly elections: http://tinyurl.com/6x2m6c

Other events:

- The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is organising a wreath laying at the shrine of press freedom hero Marcel H. Del Pilar in Quezon City at 8am on 3 May. Or you might like to come for a night of singing and jamming at "pa imPRESS ka JAM 2008" at Freedom Bar at 8pm. Email: nujphil (@) gmail (.) com

- The Confederation of Mongolian Journalists is gathering more than 3,000 journalists, a member of parliament and several Mongolian pop stars in Ulaanbaatar to protest criminal media laws that can land journalists up to two years in jail. Contact: chuluun_d (@) mol (.) mn

- The Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA) and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists (CPAJ) is protesting against Ulema scholars and media owners who have forced stations to stop broadcasting shows because they are "anti-Islamic". Contact: ifj (@) ifj-asia (.) org

- The Association of Taiwan Journalists is celebrating its annual Journalists' Day on 4 May, highlighting the recent battle Taiwanese journalists have been waging against the United Nations: because Taiwan isn't part of the UN, its reporters don't get accredited to cover UN events. Contact: journaly (@) ms10 (.) hinet (.) net

- The Centre for Independent Journalism in Malaysia hosted two days of talks on how women's rights activists can use the media as a way to foment revolution, the mainstream media's paltry performance in covering the national elections in March, and media laws that curb free expression: http://worldpressfreedomday.blogspot.com/

- The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists highlights that none of the nine journalists killed while working in Pakistan in the year leading up to 3 May had received specialist training for reporting in dangerous environments: http://tinyurl.com/4cmde7

(updated 6 May 2008)

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