The Board of Trustees of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) has named Ms. Gayathry Venkiteswaran, a Malaysian, as its new executive director. She will manage the operations of the Bangkok-based secretariat which coordinates the regional activities of the member organizations of SEAPA starting 1 December 2010.
SEAPA was founded in 1998 by the following organizations from three countries in the region: the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI) in Indonesia, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) in the Philippines, and the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) in Thailand.
Venkiteswaran was executive director of the Kuala Lumpur-based Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) in Malaysia from 2007 to 2010.
First on her agenda is a tour of the region to familiarize herself with the national activities of the different member organizations that make up SEAPA. Venkiteswaran is not exactly a stranger to the SEAPA community, having engaged CIJ in joint projects which led to the acceptance of CIJ as SEAPA associate member in 2009.
She brings to her new post a strong background in both journalism and advocacy work. During her tenure in CIJ, she conducted campaigns, training programs, workshops and seminars, taking up current issues and concerns of the press in Malaysia, including freedom of expression and freedom of information. Her fundraising efforts enabled CIJ to expand programs and to undertake campaigns for press freedom promotion and protection of journalists in the Malaysian mainstream and online media. CIJ became a member of the International Free Expression Network (IFEX) in 2009.
Before joining CIJ, Venkiteswaran was a lecturer at Taylor’s College University in Malaysia from 2004 to 2006. She joined “The Sun” in Kuala Lumpur in 1996 and worked there until 2002. Her professional experience also includes communications and editorial management at the United Nations Development Program in Malaysia.
She holds a master’s degree in International Relations from the Australian National University in Canberra.
“I look forward to being part of this regional network and hope to support its vision of promoting freedom of expression as a shared value within the Southeast Asian community of journalists, policy makers and civil society organizations. Together with SEAPA’s member- and partner organizations, along with members of the secretariat, I hope to take advantage of the potential for reforms towards greater democracy in the Southeast Asian countries by connecting the groups and resources to get freedom of expression and press freedom high on the agenda,” she said.
Kavi Chongkittavorn, chairman of SEAPA, said the regional network is fortunate to have Venkiteswaran as the new executive director. “She has a long and proven record of being a real fighter for press freedom, especially in a restrictive environment such as Malaysia’s. I am confident that she will lead SEAPA to new heights in protecting and promoting press freedom in Southeast Asia,” he said.
SEAPA is the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ); the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association (TJA); and the network’s Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).