[Timor-Leste] Still Feeling Pressed

Timor-Leste’s ranking in the latest press-freedom index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) leaped by 11 places from the previous year, but those on the ground do not feel any improvement in the country’s media conditions.

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[Thailand] Some Good News, But Mostly Bad

With still no new government as of early May 2019, free speech in Thailand continues to be restricted by special laws imposed by the military junta, officially known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which seized power from an elected civilian government in May 2014.

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Voice TV chief executive officer Makin Petplai welcomes the court decision for Voice TV to continue broadcast

[Thailand] Broadcaster wins a round

Voice TV is arguably one of the junta’s fiercest critics. Various programs and program hosts of the terrestrial digital station had been previously forced off air on many occasions as well following the 2014 coup in Thailand by the junta, which is more formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

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Activist Jolovan Wham

[Singapore] Cyberspace Headed for More Control

Singapore’s media industry has long been tightly controlled by the government. This is unlikely to change in 2019; in fact, new legislation is expected that could further curb press freedom and freedom of expression.

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[Singapore] PAP’s Potentially Potent Cyberweapon

Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill (POFMA) is thus likely to be yet another weapon in the PAP government’s arsenal against its critics. It also promises to be a very effective one; while it might be impractical to monitor all online chatter and issue correction or takedown orders in each and every instance, the legislation is worded broadly enough to give government ministers the option of wielding it selectively against particular targets. The Bill also gives ministers the power to exempt anyone they want from the law, and that has triggered fears that the government itself might not be able to be held to account.

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[Philippines] Yet Another Year of Living Dangerously

Although press freedom is constitutionally protected in the Philippines, journalists are nevertheless still among the victims of targeted killings. The number of attacks and threats against media workers and news organizations is in fact even rising — and the efforts to silence and intimidate are also being directed against those voices protective of the press.

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[Myanmar] Press Freedom in More Peril Than Ever

“Media freedom is clearly not one of (its) priorities,” said the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which monitors freedom of information and press freedom across the globe. This is even though Daw Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), the current ruling party, had press freedom among its targets for reform in its election manifesto.

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[Myanmar] Broken Promises Put the Press in Peril

It has just a little more than a year before its five-year term ends, but Myanmar’s ruling National League of Democracy (NLD) still has a lot of promises left unfulfilled. Among these are reforming the country’s media and ensuring freedom of the press and freedom of expression — but no one now believes NLD will ever make good on those.

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[Malaysia] Still Waiting for Reforms

There is, however, concern that the reform agenda has been stalled. Malaysia’s freedom of expression regime is in limbo, caught between the PH coalition’s promises made prior to the elections and the reality of a government attempting to consolidate its grip on power. Reform is also being met with resistance not only from bureaucrats, but also from politicians at the centre of power. As a result, the coalition government has underdelivered on expectations, and has even been showing a disconcerting lack of commitment to the human-rights principles it had pledged to uphold in its election manifesto.

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[Malaysia] No Class Act

In April 2018, during its last Parliamentary sitting as Government, the Barisan Nasional rushed through a law designed, according to its supporters, to curb the spread of “fake news:” the Anti-Fake News Act. As initially presented to Parliament, the bill encompassed anyone, Malaysian or non-Malaysian, who discussed Malaysia at home or abroad. Those found guilty under the bill faced a fine of up to half a million ringgit (USD 121,000) and up to 10 years in prison. The penalties were eventually watered down, but they still remained severe, with up to six years in prison, and fines that could accumulate over time.

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[Laos] Screws on Online Discourse Get Even Tighter

The absence of independent media and shrinking civic space have effectively deprived the citizens of Laos of timely and qualitative information, including those that are critical in keeping them safe from harm. Not surprisingly, more and more Laotians have turned to social media to seek and share news and information that are censored in the mainstream media, and to voice their criticisms against government policies and inactions, as well as their concerns over political and social problems in the country.

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[Indonesia] Political Reporting Can Do With Female Touch

Through the survey, Forum Jurnalis Perempuan Indonesia (FJPI, Indonesian Women Journalists Forum) sought primarily to determine whether there is gender discrimination in the newsroom when it comes to political coverage. It also wanted to see how media companies were treating their female employees, as well as how women in management positions in such companies have been handling issues concerning women in the newsroom and elsewhere.

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[Indonesia] More of the Same Isn’t Good

Indonesian journalists are having a hard time remaining optimistic about the chances of improvement in media conditions. Data gathered by the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI, Alliance of Independent Journalists) and other groups show little change from those reported in previous years — not exactly good news. After all, violence against journalists had been escalating in the last decade, and there is still no sign of it letting up.

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[Cambodia] Free Press on the Run

The media landscape in Cambodia has dramatically changed over the past two years. Today there is a shortage of independent, impartial, and rigorous news in Cambodia. Information mostly circulates either through media aligned with the government, or as unverified information on social media. This new media landscape severely curtails citizens’ right to access to independent and critical information. These developments also hinder the work of civil-society organizations, which have to devote a significant amount of resources in obtaining reliable and verifiable information.

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Radio Free Asia (RFA Khmer service) journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin were released on bail on 21 August 2018.

[Cambodia] Suppression via Legislation

Journalists should be permitted to do their work, including exposing corruption, criticizing public policies, and shedding light on human rights violations, in an environment that promotes their safety, without fear of negative repercussions. But Cambodia’s dismal media climate in 2017 had only worsened in 2018 to 2019. One of the serious challenges faced by journalists in Cambodia during this period has been the tightening of legal screws on the media, which only make it all too easy for journalists to be subjected to legal actions as a result of their work.

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© Ann Wang / courtesy of Reuters

WPFD2019: UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize honors Reuters journalists

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo (Myanmar), who are serving a seven-year prison sentence, share this year’s United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The award ceremony will take place today, 2 May 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, host of this year’s celebration of the World Press Freedom Day.

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WPFD2019: SEAPA to hold forum on World Press Freedom Day in Addis Ababa

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is joining the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) celebration in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. The theme of the SEAPA forum, to be held on May 3, is “Toward Constructive Dialogue and Shared Narratives: Exploring Media’s Role in Conflict-Prone Societies.”

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[Philippines] The Plot Thickens Over Heightened Attacks Against Media

The Philippines is not unlike other countries in the region that had their national polls recently, such as Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand, where governments had kept a close watch on the media – a tacit acknowledgment of the power of what is often dubbed the Fourth Estate to keep public officials in check, not to mention ensure a well-informed and engaged citizenry whose votes and collective opinions could upend authoritarian rulers’ determined effort to keep their grip on power – at all costs.

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[Myanmar] Supreme Court set to rule on an appeal by jailed Reuters journalists

The Myanmar Supreme Court must order the release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) said today. The two journalists, who have been jailed since 2017, are set to go before the country’s highest court on 23 April. The court will rule upon their appeal, which was submitted on grounds that lower court rulings involved errors in judicial procedure.

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