THE IRRAWADDY, 26 November 2014
By Kyaw Phyo Tha
NEW YORK — Aung Zaw, the founding editor of The Irrawaddy Magazine, received the International Press Freedom Award, which was presented by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York on Tuesday night. He is one of four international journalists who are honored this year for promoting press freedom in their countries; the other CPJ awardees come from news organizations in Russia, South Africa and Iran.
The award is an annual recognition of courageous reporting and acknowledges the work of journalists who have faced imprisonment, violence and censorship while carrying out their work.
This year, Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who was imprisoned when he won the CPJ award in 2013, was also there to attend the gala held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and receive his award.
Rebecca MacKinnon, a CPJ board member who presented Aung Zaw with the award, said his work was being honored because of the strength of two decades of The Irrawaddy’s reporting on Burma in the face of risks to him and his team.
MacKinnon noted that Aung Zaw was branded an “enemy of the state” by the former military regime, while his publication remains under pressure from Burma’s current, nominally-civilian government.
In his video message broadcast at the event, CPJ Senior Southeast Asia Representative Shawn W. Crispin said: “Aung Zaw is perhaps one of the most eloquent, powerful voices of press freedom in Burma. He founded what originally was a newsletter that evolved into a full-fledged news organization that is perhaps the most independent, critical view of Burma.”
In his acceptance speech, Aung Zaw touched on the current situation in Burma and warned that recently there has been “serious back sliding” during the democratic transition. He questioned the very nature of the reform process and whether it is a real break from the past, or just a repackaging of the old political structures.
“In the media sector, reporters are facing increased scrutiny, arrests, intimidation, detention and even death. In October, an activist reporter was killed in military custody,” he said, referring to the extrajudicial killing of Aung Kyaw Naing by government soldiers in southeastern Burma.
He also expressed his views on Western countries’ optimism about Burma’s reform and referred to US President Obama’s remarks in his recent visit to Burma, when the president said, ‘‘the reforms are real.”
“I have to respectfully say that many Burmese people are not at all convinced of that. Sometimes, we worry that our international friends tend to airbrush some of the realities we live with.
“I must tell you that this award means a lot to my dedicated team and Burmese journalists who defend press freedom in my country. It is a sign that we are not alone and that the world is still watching what is happening in Burma,” he said.
In March of this year, Aung Zaw was also honored with the 2013 Shorenstein Journalism Award from Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. In 2010, he received the Netherlands-based Prince Claus Award for Journalism.
In 1988, Aung Zaw was a student activist who joined the democratic uprising in Rangoon. He was arrested on the Rangoon University campus during one of the student rallies and detained for a week. Shortly afterward, he fled to Thailand where he launched The Irrawaddy Magazine in 1993 to cover developments in his native country as it was sinking into international isolation and political repression.
Today, The Irrawaddy reports from an office in Rangoon, Burma’s commercial capital, and has an English- and Burmese-language daily news website and two print publications: a monthly magazine in English and a Burmese-language weekly journal.
See more at: Irrawaddy Founder Receives CPJ Award in New York Ceremony
THE IRRAWADDY, 20 November 2014
Thanyarat Doksone/ The Associated Press
BANGKOK — A cinema chain in Thailand’s capital has canceled all screenings of the latest “The Hunger Games” movie after a student group planned a protest at a theater against the country’s military coup. Activists said Wednesday that police pressured the theaters to halt the showings.
Opponents of the May military coup have adopted a three-finger salute from the movie series as a sign of defiance. The military-imposed government has banned the gesture, which symbolizes rebellion against totalitarian rule in the film series.
Protest against unjust rule runs throughout the “Hunger Games” franchise. The latest installment in the popular series focuses on the mechanics of rallying support for imminent revolution.
A group of anti-coup students from Bangkok’s Thammasat University purchased about 100 tickets for an opening-day showing Thursday of the “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” at the Scala cinema and planned to attend together.
Ratthapol Supasopon, an organizer, said the group was informed by the theater management that the film’s showings had been canceled.
“The theater told us they were uncomfortable and wanted to avoid any problems that may arise. They said they did not want to be involved in any politics,” he said. “The police contacted them and pressured them not to let us hold the event.”
An employee answering the phone at the Scala who declined to identify himself said the movie had been canceled at all theaters belonging to Bangkok’s Apex chain. The film is still scheduled by some other cinema chains.
Lionsgate, “Mockingjay’s” Hollywood production company, had no comment on the situation.
Initial protests against the May coup largely died out because of crackdowns on dissent by the army and police, but there has been a small upsurge in recent days.
On Wednesday, five university students were arrested in northeastern Thailand after giving the three-fingered salute during a speech by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup as army commander.
The students, wearing T-shirts saying “Don’t Want a Coup,” stood in front of Prayuth as he spoke on a stage in Khon Kaen, a stronghold of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in an earlier 2006 military coup.
Prayuth, who is usually prickly with critics, stopped his speech and smiled calmly when the students stood up. “Anyone else want to protest? Come quickly. Then I can continue with my speech,” he said.
The students were taken to a police station and then an army camp, where they were questioned by soldiers, human rights lawyer Sasinan Thamnithinan said. She said they had not been charged.
Rights groups have criticized the government’s tight limits on speech and the media. Last week, public broadcaster Thai PBS dismissed the host of a TV program after a visit by army officers who complained that the show’s content was provocative. The government, which can shut the station under martial law, insists the officers merely expressed their concerns.
Several dozen Thai protesters and others carrying anti-coup banners and giving the three-finger salute attended the world premiere of “Mockingjay – Part 1” in London on Nov. 10.
In “The Hunger Games,” the three-finger salute signifies thanks, admiration and good-bye to a loved one. Some Thai protesters say it also represents the French Revolution’s values of liberty, equality and fraternity, while others say it means freedom, election and democracy.
See more at: Protest Plan Derails Thai Showings of Hunger Games Movie
SCROLL.IN, 11 November 2014
On the face of it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India initiative isn’t protectionist – it prefers to encourage outsiders to invest in Indian manufacturing. But it appears to have inspired Indians with a preference for swadeshi. Even when it comes to mobile phone apps.
A look at the Communications category on Google’s Play Store, which lists out the most popular messaging apps, shows a surprising name at the top of the list. Ahead of the immensely popular WhatsApp, Facebook’s own Messenger app and Viber, sits Telegram. The app, which essentially offers the same user experience as WhatsApp with a few different features such as desktop usage, has suddenly shot to the top of the play store.
Checking this on Google Trends also confirms its recent popularity. Unless users have suddenly become interested in the 19th-century technology (as they did last year, just before India shut down its telegram department), it isn’t immediately clear why they have suddenly become interested in an app that isn’t very different from the ones that are currently popular. So what gives?
One reason for this sudden spurt could be those who wish to crossover to another instant messaging app to avoid WhatsApp’s new blue ticks. But the answer – as noted by NextBigWhat – also appears to be, at least in part, because of a nationalist message being forwarded over social media insisting that Telegram would aid in Modi’s Make in India plans.
The message, in Hindi, insists that WhatsApp is an American company and so, if Indians spend the expected (but rarely paid) Rs 56 per year on the app, up to Rs 1,120 crore will leave the country, presuming a consumer base of 20 crore users.
It adds that when China realised this, it pulled its own “Make in” move and developed WeChat. To avoid this capital flight and to support Indian products, the message asks Indians to download Telegram. It even lists out the reasons Telegram is better.
There’s just one problem. Telegram isn’t Indian. The company was founded by two Russians who also own Russia’s largest social network, and has its headquarters in Berlin. The Frequently Asked Questions section on the site specifically insists that Telegram “does not belong to any country in particular. It is a global non-commercial project with contributors from all over the world.”
It’s completely unclear how the company’s background got turned into a story about Telegram not only being Indian but also representing Make in India. After all, there are indigenous messaging apps, like Airtel-affiliated Hike. Like other foreign brands that people have always assumed are Indian, like Bata, it appears that a completely unconnected company will ending up reaping the benefits of this swadeshi trend.
See more at: WhatsApp competitor gains from Modi’s Make in India appeal, even though it isn’t Indian.
THE HINDU, 9 November 2014
They were outnumbered, subjected to vituperative attacks online and offline and their leaders put under preventive arrest, but the small group of youngsters who took upon themselves the daunting task of interrogating the deeply entrenched intolerance towards any public display of affection, pulled off an unlikely victory on November 2.
Amid heckling by ultraconservative sections of the Hindu and Muslim right and harassment by the police, nearly 100 youngsters hugged and kissed in public at the Marine Drive in Kochi to declare to the whole world that they are here to challenge moral fascism and moral policing.
At a factual level, theirs was a protest against Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) activists’ act of vandalism against a restaurant in Kozhikode on the argument that young boys and girls are frequenting it to hug and kiss. The resistance group organised themselves into a Facebook group called “Kiss of Love Community” and urged everyone who believed in the freedom for public display of affection to join them in the protest. The call evoked an overwhelming response on the Facebook page and, on the day of the demonstration, nearly 100 of them turned up at the Marine Drive.
Waiting for them were thousands of activists of Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and conservative Muslim political outfits such the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and the Sunni Yuvajana Sanghom (SYS), besides district-level workers of the Kerala Students’ Union (KSU), the student wing of the Congress. They shared a common slogan: to save Kerala from “western influence,” and were menacing in their slogans and demeanour, ready to pounce on anyone who dared to indulge in public display of affection. They did beat up some youth, but it turned out that this bunch, dressed in western clothing, were out there to protect “Indian culture”! Then came the arrests. As the events at the Marine Drive unfolded, a post on the “Kiss of Love” campaign Facebook page read: “Love is put behind bars while hatred roams freely.”
For a moment, it seemed the protest would end without so much as a public hug but, even as they were being carted away by the police, a few scores of the “Kiss of Love” campaigners surprised everyone with a brave display of affection, hugging and kissing each other, leaving behind some iconic images of a new daring. The event had its resonance in the University of Hyderabad the same day and in Kolkata and Mumbai a few days later, suggesting that moral fascism transcends regional boundaries in India today. For Kerala, however, the protest had a special relevance and meaning, given the State’s reputation of being a modern, educated and progressive society. What the youngsters did was to rip open the façade of modernity and progressivism that hide behind its deeply regressive attitude towards human relationships in public and private spaces.
Wrote J. Devika, leading feminist scholar: “While the Hindutva groups and the conservative constituencies of other religions in Kerala may advance different arguments to justify their loathing of public physical expressions of warmth, the unity they have achieved in their irrational fear of public touch needs to be considered further … I think this event also rubbishes a whole lot of hogwash that plagues one’s ears in contemporary Kerala about how the youth are incapable of doing anything significant, how they keep consuming and turning into crap … ”
The State has been witnessing a rising tide of moral policing in recent times with vigilante groups of both the Left and Right and the majority and minority communities taking upon themselves the job of policing neighbourhoods, harassing men and women and running campaigns of calumny against chosen targets. This is nothing short of an anomalous situation given the State’s long history of progressive social interventions, astounding material progress post-1970s and Malayalis’ exposure to life and culture in other shores.
Creature comforts and gadgetry available to Malayalis are the envy of many elsewhere and the tapestry of visual and aural experiences that have washed ashore with the changing times have added rich hues to the aspirations and life possibilities of every Malayali. But, some 150 years after women of the subaltern communities of former Travancore fought and won the right to cover their breasts after brutal repressions, the State is witnessing attempts at re-tethering to the patriarchal positions that Kerala society has been trying to shake free from. The attack on the restaurant in Kozhikode and the violent response to the “Kiss of Love” campaign were a testimony to this.
What the youngsters achieved, braving heavy odds, was to lay bare all that and trigger a debate in Kerala on the patriarchal attitudes and decadent orthodoxy that have been the hallmark of public — and also private — life in Kerala. One refreshing development was the support extended to their protest by Left parties, particularly the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the ambivalent stand taken by the rest of the political mainstream.
“More than moral policing, at issue here is the conflict between patriarchy and the desire to bring down all that goes with it. I think those who organised this struggle have a weighty responsibility to keep up the spirit and use the energies they have unleashed to take Kerala society forward on a healthy path,” says veteran journalist and rights activist B.R.P. Bhaskar. For a State that has lived under a coalitional gridlock that has largely benefited mostly patriarchal and commercial vested interests and which seems at the cusp of further political churning, the “Kiss of Love” campaign could just be the opening up of new possibilities of forward movement as well as resistance.
See more at: Love in the time of bigotry
INDIA TODAY, New Delhi, October 25, 2014
Using the Diwali milan (get-together) organised by BJP chief Amit Shah at the party headquarters, Modi freely mixed with a few hundred journalists, including top editors and beat reporters.
„I used to arrange chairs here (BJP office) waiting for you (media). Those were different days when we used to interact freely. I had a beautiful relationship with you and it helped me in Gujarat,“ he told the assembled editors, reporters and other journalists at Diwali milan (get-together) hosted by BJP President Amit Shah at the party headquarters.
Fondly recalling the deep relationship he had with the media, Modi said he was looking for ways to further deepen and expand the old relationship.
„Some way will be found. It is important to interact with media directly rather than the reportage and articles. By interacting directly, one gets to know things which media persons cannot report. Not only does one get information but also vision, which is very valuable,“ he said.
Referring to ‚Swachh Bharat‘ campaign launched by him, Modi said he was happy to see several articles, TV features and social media write-ups on the subject, giving the mission a wide publicity.
„Media has converted its pen into broom… This is a service to the nation,“ he said, saying he felt indebted by this.
He said although 80 percent of the media coverage is criticism of governments but this is an issue which affects the image of the country and impacts the poorest most.
„More important than health care is preventive health care and cleanliness plays a crucial role in this,“ he said, adding that it is a national duty to raise awareness about the issue.
Noting that all including influential people are getting involved in the ‚Swachh Bharat‘ campaign, he said the notion that government has to do everything has changed.
„For the last 60 years, the thinking was that government has to do everything. Now the thinking is that we all have to work together. This demonstrates how big a role media can play,“ Modi said.
Media has inspired people to take part in cleanliness exercise, he said.
Earlier, Shah said the central government is doing a good job after people have reposed faith in Modi’s leadership. He hoped that it will rise to the expectations of the people.
Modi later mingled with journalists many of whom jostled to get clicked with him. Several young journalists did selfies with the Prime Minister who happily obliged them.
Read more at: Modi thanks Media
THE CARAVAN, 1 November 2014
By Karanjeet Kaur
IN THE FIRST EPISODE of Aunn Zara, an egg—lobbed by a mollycoddling aunt in an attempt to ward off the evil eye—lands on Aunn’s head. As the vexed hero of the 2013 Pakistani comic drama squeals his way out of the frame, his mother admonishes the aunt for her superstition: “Ye sarhad paar ke drame mat dekha karo,” she says. “Don’t watch these serials from across the border.”
It’s an offhand comment, yet an appropriate one—not merely because the contemporary Indian soap opera has, at its core, the neat image of a woman taking preventive measures against fate, but also because the makers of Pakistani television serials are aware of their country’s superiority in the genre. This summer, when Zindagi, a new channel from Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited, began broadcasting syndicated shows from across the border, this superiority became apparent to Indian audiences as well—Indian audiences, that is, who did not grow up watching Pakistani teleplays.
In 1989, my uncle and aunt returned to Delhi from a tour of Pakistan bearing dried Kandahari apricots and almonds, “American” synthetic crepe yardage, and grainy VHS tapes of Dhoop Kinare (The Edge of Sunshine, 1987) and Tanhaiyaan (Loneliness, 1985). The owner of our local video store, from whom we routinely rented recordings of slapstick stage plays such as Bakra Qiston Pe (The Goat, in Installments, 1989) and Budhha Ghar Pe Hai (The Old Man is Home, 1989), had alerted them to these teleplays—both scripted by the legendary dramatist Haseena Moin—before their departure.
Dhoop Kinare, set in a hospital where a young Dr Zoya Ali Khan romances an older colleague, had aired two years earlier on Pakistan’s state-owned channel, PTV. I was five years old when I watched it, and understood nothing about the play’s progressive subject, its first-rate storytelling, or Nayyara Noor’s fluid ghazals, which held the narrative together. This was also around the time I was making definitive career decisions—obviously I wanted to be a doctor like Zoya. But what I actually wanted was lead actress Marina Khan’s short hair; her baggy salwar kameez suits, then in vogue; the inherent elegance of the Urdu she spoke; and, above all, the natural goofiness with which she played the recalcitrant medical student. I remained captivated until the tapes unspooled from overuse, for which I was solely responsible.
After binge-watching several of the new shows being aired on Zindagi, I recently returned to Dhoop Kinare. It still outstrips any contemporary, and several past, Indian television shows by a mile. Aided by actors who are so easy on the eyes, it has all the characteristics long-term viewers have come to associate with Pakistani teleplays. Even 27 years after it was made, its characters’ concerns feel current: Zoya’s resistance to studying medicine, or her friend Anji’s insistence, against her father’s wishes, on studying fine arts.
– See more at: Opening A Channel
By SUHIT KELKAR | 1 October 2014
LATE THIS AUGUST, the Film Forum of Manipur made a bold announcement. The state’s apex industry guild and regulatory office, which ensures that all films abide by censorship rules imposed by local separatist groups, slapped six of the regional industry’s actors with a six-month ban. The punishment was meted out for failure to support protests for an “Inner Line Permit” system in Manipur. The ILP system, which requires outsiders to get special permits to visit a state, is in force in Nagaland, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where tribal populations see it as a protective membrane over local ways of life.
The actors, each of whom has about ten to twenty films in the pipeline, argued that they had never received a notice to attend the protests. The Film Forum’s Executive Council refused to accept the excuse. In early September, Laimayum Surjakanta Sharma, the Forum’s chairman, told me over the phone that the ban would hold, although actors were free to act in music videos. “We will see how much they support our campaigns in the near term,” Sharma said, hinting at the possibility of a commuted sentence. “We are giving them a lesson.”
– See more at: Manipur Masala