A field of newly transplanted Virginia tobacco in Barangay Anei, Claveria, Misamis Oriental. The production of these plants plummeted to only a million kilograms in 2018 as only 336 farmers planted the crop in 436.21 hectares, down from 2.5 million in 2017 with 1,117 farmers who grew the variety in 1,387 hectares. Photo by LSReyes

[Philippines] Images of women absent from posters on safe tobacco growing

Researchers in a Brazil-based study in a tobacco-growing community pointed out that women are primary study subjects on the health and environmental impacts of tobacco production because of  “their role in tobacco production, combined with their essential role in caring for the family, especially related to health.’’

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[Philippines] Environment, health impacts awareness factor in tobacco production nosedive

Done in 2016, three years after tobacco’s commercial cultivation began here, the study, which profiled women farmers, including the knowledge, perceptions and practices of women working in tobacco farms in Claveria. Among its findings is that 90 percent of the women workers were aware of the health impacts of cultivating the plant.

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Protesters against sand mining on the Ayeyarwady River in Shwedaung Township, Bago Region on Jan. 16, 2019. Photo: Thuya Zaw

[Myanmar] Ayeyarwady river at risk from rampant sand mining

Since 2010, a construction boom in Myanmar has fueled a sharp increase in the extraction of sand from the Ayeyarwady that is then used in cement and asphalt. Environmental groups say this dredging is destabilizing the river and placing stress on the Ayeyarwady Delta, the country’s main rice producing region. Experts warn that the rate of sand mining in the Ayeyarwady has already reached an unsustainable level and is projected to increase as development continues.

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[Philippines] Romancing storms, worms and leaves: Growing ‘batek’ in the shadow of environmental perils

The farmers continue to use insecticides whose active ingredients, Gold Star Daily has learned, are listed as hazardous by World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International. PAN uses the definition of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of hazardous pesticides as “those linked with a high incidence of severe or irreversible adverse effects on human health or the environment.”

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Photo from AJI Indonesia

[Indonesia] National Press Day ‘more ceremonial’ than substantive – AJI

The just concluded Hari Pers Nasional (HPN, or the National Press Day) may have been touted as a celebration of the role of the press in a still largely democratic society like Indonesia, and, as in years past since 1985, was meant to be a meaningful occasion for the entire nation – except that not everyone, let alone some journalist groups, found any reason to celebrate it.

The choice of date, February 9, remains contentious for many, for the historical baggage that it carries.

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Photo by FJPI

[Indonesia] Women journalists tell their stories in new book

Published by Forum Jurnalis Perempuan Indonesia (FJPI, Indonesian Women Journalists Forum), the book, Jurnalis Perempuan Meliput Indonesia: 50 Kisali di Balik Berita (Female Journalists Covering Indonesia: 50 Stories Behind the News), was launched Friday, 8 February 2019, at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Surabaya, capital city of East Java. The launch coincided with the commemoration of the National Press Day of Indonesia, which is celebrated annually on February 9.

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Arlene Django

[Philippines] Romancing storms, worms and leaves: Growing native ‘batek’ in the shadow of environmental perils

The town leadership more than a decade ago, as early as 2006, had the foresight to envision environmental management strategies for its communities that included the introduction of organic farming methods for all crops for this largely agricultural town, where residents grow rice, corn, coconuts and other cash crops like bananas, coffee and tobacco on 4,366 hectares, 42 percent of its land area.

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Ruthela Mabalo, 73, a comprador at the Bagsakan, the tobacco trading center in Laguindingan town in Misamis Oriental, examines a mano (a sheaf of 100 batek leaves) before she decides to buy them from a farmer-seller. (photo by Lina Sagaral Reyes)

[Philippines] Romancing storms, worms and leaves: Growing tobacco in the shadow of environmental perils in Misor

In October 2018, at the eighth Conference of Parties (COP8) in Geneva, the WHO FCTC spotlighted Article 18, which commits signatory countries like the Philippines, to addressing the environmental impacts caused by tobacco agriculture as well as the health of growers. 

On the ground, however, it is easier said than done. While the number of farmers and the hectarage had significantly declined in the past seven years nationwide, Misamis Oriental had seen an upsurge as farmers turn to tobacco as major crop once again.

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A makeshift hut in Bin Dong camp, one of five temporary shelters for people affected by a dam collapse in southern Laos in July. People here have built the huts as extensions, saying the tents are too hot during the day time / Credit: Visarut Sankham

[Laos] Left to fend for themselves

Even six months after the collapse of the Saddle Dam D section of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower project, which severely destroyed six villages in southern Laos and buried more than 55,200 hectares of land under deep floodwater, the victims still have no certainty about their future.

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The Ton River is seen in Kua village, Laos, on Dec. 24, 2018 / Credit: Somphavanh

[Laos] Poisoned fish worries village as Sangthong district promotes good agricultural practices

The people of Kua village in Sangthong district depend on the Ton River for their livelihoods. It is a prime source of food for the community and provides fishermen an income. It is a source of drinking water for the many diverse animals that live in the area. Locals use the water from the river on a daily basis for drinking, bathing and washing.

Villagers say the number of fish and aquatic life in the Ton River has been on the decline ever since the Chinese-owned Yongzhen Import-Export Production Promotion Company started planting bananas there in 2014.

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(L-R) Orapin Yingyongpathana, The Momentum; Chonthicha Jangrew, Democracy Restoration Group; Tanawat  Wongchai, Student Union of Thailand; Prasong Lertratanawisute, ISRA News Agency; Kulachada Chaipipat, formerly of SEAPA

[Thailand] In run-up to next election, media must step up its game — says forum

The event, called “A Public Forum on Election and Media Coverage in Thailand: Challenges and Opportunities for Broadening Public Discourse,” gathered 60 representatives from news organizations, journalists’ groups, and civil society to discuss the role of the media during elections, and the state of its coverage of political issues.

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(L-R) Min Pov, VOD; Norman Goh, Malaysiakini; Karel Jiaan Antonio, ANFREL; Pravit Rojanaphruk, Khaosod English.

[Thailand] Media vital in shaping public discourse during election, says monitoring group

Karel Jiaan Antonio, program officer for campaign and advocacy of the Asian Network for Free Election (ANFREL), said that as election monitors, they recognize the important role of the media during elections in shaping public discourse.

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[Myanmar] Dismal state of free expression today’s reality under NLD-led gov’t

In its latest report on free speech, “Dashed Hopes: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Myanmar,” the Human Rights Watch (HRW) outlined the current civic space for journalists and civil society in the country. While laws that criminalize free speech and defamation were enacted by previous administrations in Myanmar, the NLD government whose de facto leader is Aung San Suu Kyi, once known as the country’s icon of democracy, has made no progress in repealing or amending these laws, said the report released on 31 January 2019.

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[Thailand] Media-public forum shines a light on bleak realities of election reporting

Now that the long-awaited national election in Thailand is a certainty, how does the local media fare in the public eye in terms of its coverage of important issues that are relevant to the highly anticipated political exercise?

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Dire state of freedom of expression in SEA mirrors global trend

The continuing rise of autocratic forces across the globe weakened checks and balances for democracy such as free media, civic groups, and an independent judiciary in 2018 – and Southeast Asia was no exception. These are documented in the newly released World Report 2019 of the Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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Rappler CEO Maria Ressa speaks at a rally during the Black Friday protest on January 19, 2018, triggered by the revocation of the online news outlet's registration.

[Philippines] Duterte administration stepped up attacks against media, critics in 2018 — HRW

In its latest report released Thursday, 17 January 2019, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) decries the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines and its consequent impact, among others, on freedom of expression in the country.

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