Weekly Media Roundup (1 – 7 December 2018)

Here are some of the press freedom- and free expression-related events and issues you might have missed last week: 


Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) 


[Malaysia] Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ): Arrest of blogger raises outcry from independent media group



Duterte gov’t ratches up media intimidation

See also: 

Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR): Rappler’s Maria Ressa Posts Bail

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP): On the possible arrest of Maria Ressa


General news 

ARTICLE 19: “ARTICLE 19 report shows sharp decline in global freedom of expression since 2014” 

“An annual metric, published by ARTICLE 19, shows that global freedom of expression has declined significantly over the last three years. The Expression Agenda (XpA) uses independently collected and verified data to give a comprehensive picture of the state of freedom of expression around the world. 24 countries showed an overall decline in freedom of expression between 2014 and 2017.” 



Radio Free Asia (RFA). “RFA, Cambodia Daily May Reopen in Cambodia: Interior Minister” 

“Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Cambodian Center for Independent Media director Nop Vy said that instead of simply saying that foreign media outlets can return, Cambodia’s government should introduce clear measures guaranteeing press freedoms in the authoritarian Southeast Asian country.” 

See also: 

Analysts Question Motives Behind Cambodia’s Plan to ‘Strengthen Democracy’ After Divisive Election” 

Reuters: “Cambodia weighs easing opposition pressure amid EU sanctions threat” 



New Naratif: “The Elephant in the Newsroom” 

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed as a human right for all Indonesian citizens according to the national law which states that the press has the right to seek, obtain and disseminate ideas and information. Yet this is far from the reality on the ground in West Papua.” 


National Secular Society (NSS): “NSS asks Google to remove Indonesian app for reporting blasphemy” 

“The National Secular Society has written to Google to ask it to remove an app which encourages Indonesians to report people they suspect of religious ‘heresy’ to the authorities…. Two weeks ago the Indonesian government launched the Smart Pakem app, which allows Indonesians to report ‘deviant’ religious ideas … Rights groups have condemned the app but it remains available on the Google Play store. It has received a series of negative reviews from people concerned about its impact on freedom of expression.” 



BFM89.9: “BFM’s Statement on allegations of sexual harassment” 

“At this juncture, we are unable to confirm any of the situations described…. We take all allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct seriously. Internal investigations are initiated whenever an allegation is made. Our practice has been to offer employees discretion and fairness, and we take action when we learn of unacceptable behavior.” 

See also: 

The Star: “BFM investigating sexual harassment allegations” ; “BFM appoints independent party to look into sexual harassment claims” 

Malay Mail: “Hit by poison pen note, BFM 89.9 says no evidence yet of alleged sexual harassment” ; “Urgent need for laws to prevent sexual misconduct in work place — Institute of Journalists Malaysia” 

Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm): “Ensure justice is served in sexual harassment probe at local radio station” 


The Star: “‘Papagomo’ arrested over alleged racist video” 

“Police have arrested Umno Youth’s Wan Muhammad Azri Wan Deris, better known as ‘Papagomo’, over a video he posted on Facebook…. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun confirmed the arrest here on Friday (Nov 30)…. He said the blogger was detained on Thursday (Nov 29) to help in a probe over the video post that was deemed seditious, allegedly spread racial hatred and touched on religious sensitivities.” 

See also: 

Malay Mail: “IGP confirms Papagomo nabbed over provocative video” 

New Straits Times: “Papa Gomo arrested” 


Malay Mail: “Activist to be quizzed in sedition probe” 

“Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said today (5 December 2018) he has been called in for questioning tomorrow morning, likely over investigations into fellow activist Fadiah Nadwa Fikri…. The human rights activist said when contacted by the Brickfields police district headquarters, the officer speaking to him could not provide further details beyond that.” 


Nikkei Asian Review: “Malaysia media spreads its wings as Mahathir promises free speech” 

“The election not only changed the leadership — it changed the climate of fear. To convince the public it is serious about press freedom, the government is thinking about capping the stakes political parties can hold in media companies, at 10%…. Yet a nagging question remains. Has Mahathir, a man once labeled an ‘enemy’ of the media by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, really become a reliable guardian of the press?” 


Aliran: “CIJ, Geramm launch draft constitution for media council” 

“Responding to the call by media advisor A Kadir Jasin for inspiration on the setting up of a media council, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) have produced a draft constitution for a media council…. Nonetheless, we reiterate our longstanding position that a media council can only function after the Printing Presses and Publications Act has been repealed and the government shows its promised commitment to media freedom.” 



Frontier Myanmar: “Information minister rebuts allegations of deteriorating press freedom, accuses watchdogs of bias” 

“Union Minister for Information U Pe Myint has refuted claims that media freedom is deteriorating under the National League for Democracy-led government, labeling research by international watchdog groups as biased…. ‘I’ve been hearing that our country is deprived of media freedom, even more so now than it was under the previous government,’ he told a media development conference in Nay Pyi Taw on December 5.” 

See also: 

Myanmar Times: “Journalists urged to resist influence of big money” 

Myanmar Now: “Media figures slam minister who urged reporters to be patriotic” 

Mizzima: “Information Minister denies government backpedalling on media freedom” 

Radio Free Asia (RFA): “Myanmar Information Minister Denies Reports That Press Freedom is in Decline” 

The Irrawaddy: “Information Minister’s Allegations of Bias Draw Ire of Media Groups” ; “Commentary | Information Minister Embraces the Propaganda Machine He Inherited” 


Frontier Myanmar: “Kachin youth activists handed prison sentences for ‘defaming’ the Tatmadaw” 

“Three Kachin youth activists who led anti-war protests earlier this year in Myitkyina were each sentenced on Friday (7 December 2018) to six months in prison and each fined K500,000 for ‘defaming’ the Myanmar armed forces under Section 500 of the Penal Code…. Fellow Kachin activists, international human rights groups and the European Union delegation have decried the decision by Myitkyina Township judge U Tu Ja as an attack on freedom of speech and assembly. Lawyer for the defendants Doi Bu said an appeal would be lodged with the Myitkyina District court.” 

See also: 

Amnesty International. “Myanmar: Appalling punishment for three peaceful anti-war protesters must be overturned” 


Columbia Journalism Review (CJR): “From a Myanmar jail, a children’s book about the power of journalism” 

“Friends and colleagues of Wa Lone, though, describe him as a fundamentally optimistic person, the type of guy to make the most out of even the worst situation. In addition to teaching English, Wa Lone passes time in prison working on his English skills, tending a small garden, and reading voraciously. (According to a friend, he has so far made it through the entirety of the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series.) He also writes: in September, the Third Story Project—a non-profit organization Wa Lone co-founded in 2014 to publish and distribute children’s books free of charge across Myanmar—released an illustrated story he wrote called Jay Jay the Journalist. ‘Many people in Myanmar think of journalists as swindlers,’ Shwe Mi, Wa Lone’s editor at Third Story, says. ‘There is no child who wants to be a journalist. That is why we need to introduce what journalism is to children.’” 



Rappler.com. “Rappler to Pasig court: Tax charges ‘clear case of persecution’” 

“No jurisdiction…. This, along with violation of due process, are what Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC) and its president Maria Ressa are citing as basis for the dismissal of a tax case filed by the government against them…. In a motion to quash filed before Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 265 on Tuesday, December 4, RHC and Ressa asked the court to void the charges, if not remand investigation to the Department of Justice (DOJ) – or at least suspend proceedings while they avail of appeal remedies.” 

See also: 

Maria Ressa posts bail for tax case at Pasig court” ; “LODI honors Filipino journalists for defending press freedom” 

South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, one of Duterte’s fiercest critics, remains defiant despite arrest” 

Al Jazeera: “Rappler CEO vows to report on Duterte drug war amid arrest threat” 

The New York Times: “Philippine Journalist, a Thorn to Duterte, Turns Herself In to Face Charges” 

The Washington Post. “‘I’m not a criminal’: Philippine journalist and Duterte critic turns herself in over tax charges” 

The Guardian: “Philippines journalist Maria Ressa vows to challenge tax fraud charges after arrest” 

The Nation: “(Opinion) Another blow to press freedom” 

The Globe and Mail: “(Opinion) A new weapon against press freedom in the Philippines” 

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ): “SPJ urges Philippine government to drop charges against Rappler and Maria Ressa” 

Reporters Without Borders: “Philippine website editor due to be arraigned in court” 

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner: “UN expert calls on the Philippines to drop charges against Rappler” 


place: “Philippine radio station tunes into indigenous land rights” 

“A community radio station in the Philippines is drawing attention to the struggles of indigenous Lumad people, whose rights to ancestral land and resources are increasingly under threat from industrialisation…. Radyo Lumad, launched last year by the charity Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the rights group Kalumbay Regional Loomed Organization, broadcasts eight hours a day, five days a week.” 


Philippine News Agency (PNA): “PCOO exec expects passage of FOI law” 

“A Communications official is counting on the Congress to pass a Freedom of Information (FOI) law before the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term in 2022…. Communications Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan, also FOI Program Director, is hoping that both the Senate and the House of Representatives (HoR) find time to continue deliberating on the FOI law before next year’s mid-term elections in May.” 



The Straits Times: “PM Lee sues financial adviser Leong Sze Hian for defamation contained in Facebook post” 

“Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has begun legal action against financial adviser Leong Sze Hian for defamation, after Mr Leong shared an article on his Facebook page that said Mr Lee had helped to launder 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds…. The article, which Mr Leong posted on Nov 7, stated that former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak had signed ‘secret deals’ with PM Lee in exchange for Singapore banks’ help in laundering money from the embattled sovereign wealth fund.” 

See also: 

Channel NewsAsia: “PM Lee sues blogger Leong Sze Hian for defamation over sharing of article” 

Mothership: “Blogger Leong Sze Hian says he’s ‘bewildered’ as to why PM Lee is suing him” 

The Online Citizen: “PM Lee Hsien Loong sues blogger, Leong Sze Hian for defamation over Facebook share” 

South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Singapore’s prime minister personally sues critic for sharing article on Facebook” 




All information and materials in this roundup are for general information and use only and do not constitute any advice or recommendation. 

All information and materials in this roundup are provided in good faith. Except for the information produced by SEAPA, we are not responsible for the contents or reliability of linked websites and do not necessarily endorse the views expressed within them. We have no control over availability of the linked websites.

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