Overview of impunity related incidents in 2012 in Southeast Asia

Impunity can be broadly defined as non-accountability for actions that violate rights. This means individual perpetrators escape or are exempt from punishment or prosecution, perhaps due to the absence of rule of law. Because of this, more such acts will be committed because it is highly unlikely that perpetrators will be made to answer for their crimes. On a bigger level, impunity also concerns states that can continually mete out punishment without accountability on human rights concerns.

This brief report summarizes SEAPA’s monitoring of media freedom and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia. The numbers cited are by no means exhaustive, as these represent cases that the SEAPA’s Alert unit has been able to record through its monitoring[1] of media news and alerts system.

The numbers represent totals combined from reports from SEAPA’s alerts partners and contributors in the field, and also from online reports from human rights and press monitoring groups and the news media on the region.

For this report, SEAPA has limited its count to incidents and new developments on previous incidents, for example convictions of persons detained before 2012.

Summary of impunity related cases recorded by SEAPA in 2012

Country

Impunity Through Violence

Impunity by law

Total

By

Country

Attacks

Killings

Threats

Arrest/

Detention

Criminal

Prosecution

Total cases by category >

23

13

35

7

22

100

Burma/Myanmar

2

0

6

0

4

12

Cambodia

1

2

3

1

5

12

Indonesia

5

1

3

0

1

10

Laos

0

0

1

0

0

1

Malaysia

2

0

3

2

2

9

Philippines

10

9

17

0

0

36

Singapore

0

0

0

0

1

1

Thailand

0

1

1

0

2

4

Timor Leste

1

0

0

0

0

1

Vietnam

2

0

1

4

7

14

 

Observations:

Southeast Asia remains problematic with regards to safety and protection of journalists with 100 impunity-related cases recorded, or 71 cases of violent incidents (including threats) both from state and non-state actors, and 29 cases of state legal actions.

1. Impunity through violence:

Attacks: cases of acts to inflict physical harm against a person, sometimes with the intent to kill. This category includes attacks against organizations, both physical and cyber attacks. In this category:

  • 21 of 23 incidents relate to journalists. Of the attacks involving journalists, two are not-work related.
  • 10 cases of attacks come from the Philippines; 5 are from Indonesia, although the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) has said that as of the end of May they have received 20 cases of violence.

Threats or Harassment: cases of warnings against journalistic or free expression actions; includes both threats to commit physical and legal action against the victims.

  • 31 out of 35 incidents are related to journalists; one case each related to blogs, a media official, a concert, and an NGO.
  • Philippines has 17 cases, with almost all (except one) directed at individual reporters.
  • Burma has six cases, mostly state-initiated, against the private media (including two which are journals of political parties)

Killings: of (or related to) journalists and civil society activists.

  • 13 killings, two involve activists, one is a witness to a journalist related case.
  • 11 cases are related to journalists. Of the 10 cases of journalists being killed, 4 are work related.
  • Philippines has 9 recorded killings, including one activist and one murder case witness. At least three are work-related killings of journalists.

2. Impunity by law:

Detention and imprisonment: cases of arrests or detentions for journalistic work or acts of free expression, whether with charges or not. This category does not include detention cases that resulted in convictions.

  • Only 2 out 8 arrest incidents involve journalists. Two are related to bloggers.
  • Half of the cases were in Vietnam.

Criminalisation of expression: cases filing of criminal charges and convictions against journalistic work or free expression activities. This category includes sentencing of detentions before 2012.

  • 8 out of 21 cases involve journalists or news agencies.
  • 18 of these cases were initiated by the state or specific state agencies.
  • Vietnam is the country with the most cases, accounting for 1/3 of the total. Cambodia and Burma follow with 5 and 4 cases respectively.
  • 13 are cases of convictions for criminal charges.

It is notable that violent incidents recorded were directed at journalists, while more legal actions were pointed towards individual acts of free speech.

A similar pattern can be observed towards countries with relatively freer media environments, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where more acts of violence against journalists were recorded. Meanwhile, there were more government initiatives to suppress free expression recorded in Vietnam and Burma/Myanmar, which have restrictedmedia environments.

3. Observations by Country

Burma/Myanmar:12 incidents

  • Most cases involve state interventions in the private media, concerning reporting on sensitive issues, such as government corruption, the military and ethnic unrest.
  • No incidents of violence were reported except for cyber attacks (DDOS) against erstwhile exile media.
  • Only one case involved a specific journalist—a DVB reporter who was accused by a government official for disturbance and tresspassing.

Cambodia: 12 cases

  • 5 of the 12 cases involve civil society. This is restriction of civil society is somehow connected to moves to impose stricter control with the widely-criticised draft NGO law.
  • 6 cases are concerned with politics, while four cases concern local issues (land and logging).

Indonesia: 10 cases

  • 9 of 10 cases are related to violence (attacks, killings and threats).
  • 3 cases involved the military personnel’s heavy handed responses to journalistic activities
  • 2 cases concern religion

Laos: 1 case

  • The only case from Laos concerns the unlawful closure of a radio program, which was based on minister’s verbal order to the radio station director.

Malaysia: 9 cases

  • Four cases in Malaysia relate to the response of authorities to journalistic coverage of issues. Of these, only one case is from a private complaints.

Philippines: 36 cases

  • The Philippines is the most dangerous place to be a journalist in Southeast Asia, accounting for more than half of the violent incidents against journalists.
  • Notably, there are no recorded cases of arrests or prosecution against journalists.
  • Almost all of the cases (except one or at most two) concern local issues.

Singapore’s only recorded case relates to the conviction of a person linked with an online post which the court deemed as inciting to violence.

Thailand: 4 cases

  • Two of Thailand’s cases relate to the controversial lese majeste law.

Timor Leste’s only recorded case is about the mauling of a radio announcer who had reported on a corruption case.

Vietnam: 17 cases

  • 7 of 11 cases of impunity by law from Vietnam are related to bloggers, including 3 cases of convictions of bloggers (5 persons).
  • Also, 7 of these cases relate to charges of conducting anti-state propaganda (Article 88 of the penal code).
  • Only two cases relate to journalists, including only one of an active journalist concerning an investigative report.

 


[1] SEAPA’s media monitoring system—to track news items related to freedom of expression and the media—was put in place in March 2012.

 

Impunity can be broadly defined as non-accountability for actions that violate rights. This means individual perpetrators escape or are exempt from punishment or prosecution, perhaps due to the absence of rule of law. Because of this, more such acts will be committed because it is highly unlikely that perpetrators will be made to answer for their crimes. On a bigger level, impunity also concerns states that can continually mete out punishment without accountability on human rights concerns.
This brief report summarizes SEAPA’s monitoring of media freedom and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia. The numbers cited are by no means exhaustive, as these represent cases that the SEAPA’s Alert unit has been able to record through its monitoring  of media news and alerts system.
The numbers represent totals combined from reports from SEAPA’s alerts partners and contributors in the field, and also from online reports from human rights and press monitoring groups and the news media on the region.
For this report, SEAPA has limited its count to incidents and new developments on previous incidents, for example convictions of persons detained before 2012.
Summary of impunity related cases recorded by SEAPA since 2012
CountryImpunity Through ViolenceImpunity by lawTotal
By
Country
AttacksKillingsThreatsArrest/
DetentionCriminal
Prosecution
Total cases by category >23 13 35722100
Burma/Myanmar2060412
Cambodia1231512
Indonesia5130110
Laos001001
Malaysia203229
Philippines 109170036
Singapore000011
Thailand011024
Timor Leste100001
Vietnam2014714
Observations:
Southeast Asia remains problematic with regards to safety and protection of journalists with 100 impunity-related cases recorded, or 71 cases of violent incidents (including threats) both from state and non-state actors, and 29 cases of state legal actions.
1. Impunity through violence:
Attacks: cases of acts to inflict physical harm against a person, sometimes with the intent to kill. This category includes attacks against organizations, both physical and cyber attacks. In this category:
•21 of 23 incidents relate to journalists. Of the attacks involving journalists, two are not-work related.
•10 cases of attacks come from the Philippines; 5 are from Indonesia, although the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) has said that as of the end of May they have received 20 cases of violence.
Threats or Harassment: cases of warnings against journalistic or free expression actions; includes both threats to commit physical and legal action against the victims.
•31 out of 35 incidents are related to journalists; one case each related to blogs, a media official, a concert, and an NGO.
•Philippines has 17 cases, with almost all (except one) directed at individual reporters.
•Burma has six cases, mostly state-initiated, against the private media (including two which are journals of political parties)
Killings: of (or related to) journalists and civil society activists.
•13 killings, two involve activists, one is a witness to a journalist related case.
•11 cases are related to journalists. Of the 10 cases of journalists being killed, 4 are work related.
•Philippines has 9 recorded killings, including one activist and one murder case witness. At least three are work-related killings of journalists.
2. Impunity by law:
Detention and imprisonment: cases of arrests or detentions for journalistic work or acts of free expression, whether with charges or not. This category does not include detention cases that resulted in convictions.
•Only 2 out 8 arrest incidents involve journalists. Two are related to bloggers.
•Half of the cases were in Vietnam.
Criminalisation of expression: cases filing of criminal charges and convictions against journalistic work or free expression activities. This category includes sentencing of detentions before 2012.
•8 out of 21 cases involve journalists or news agencies.
•18 of these cases were initiated by the state or specific state agencies.
•Vietnam is the country with the most cases, accounting for 1/3 of the total. Cambodia and Burma follow with 5 and 4 cases respectively.
•13 are cases of convictions for criminal charges.
It is notable that violent incidents recorded were directed at journalists, while more legal actions were pointed towards individual acts of free speech.
A similar pattern can be observed towards countries with relatively freer media environments, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where more acts of violence against journalists were recorded. Meanwhile, there were more government initiatives to suppress free expression recorded in Vietnam and Burma/Myanmar, which have restrictedmedia environments.
3. Observations by Country
Burma/Myanmar:12 incidents
•Most cases involve state interventions in the private media, concerning reporting on sensitive issues, such as government corruption, the military and ethnic unrest.
•No incidents of violence were reported except for cyber attacks (DDOS) against erstwhile exile media.
•Only one case involved a specific journalist—a DVB reporter who was accused by a government official for disturbance and tresspassing.
Cambodia: 12 cases
•5 of the 12 cases involve civil society. This is restriction of civil society is somehow connected to moves to impose stricter control with the widely-criticised draft NGO law.
•6 cases are concerned with politics, while four cases concern local issues (land and logging).
Indonesia: 10 cases
•9 of 10 cases are related to violence (attacks, killings and threats).
•3 cases involved the military personnel’s heavy handed responses to journalistic activities
•2 cases concern religion
Laos: 1 case
•The only case from Laos concerns the unlawful closure of a radio program, which was based on minister’s verbal order to the radio station director.
Malaysia: 9 cases
•Four cases in Malaysia relate to the response of authorities to journalistic coverage of issues. Of these, only one case is from a private complaints.
Philippines: 36 cases
•The Philippines is the most dangerous place to be a journalist in Southeast Asia, accounting for more than half of the violent incidents against journalists.
•Notably, there are no recorded cases of arrests or prosecution against journalists.
•Almost all of the cases (except one or at most two) concern local issues.
Singapore’s only recorded case relates to the conviction of a person linked with an online post which the court deemed as inciting to violence.
Thailand: 4 cases
•Two of Thailand’s cases relate to the controversial lese majeste law.
Timor Leste’s only recorded case is about the mauling of a radio announcer who had reported on a corruption case.
Vietnam: 17 cases
•7 of 11 cases of impunity by law from Vietnam are related to bloggers, including 3 cases of convictions of bloggers (5 persons).
•Also, 7 of these cases relate to charges of conducting anti-state propaganda (Article 88 of the penal code).
•Only two cases relate to journalists, including only one of an active journalist concerning an investigative report.