Weekly Media Roundup (13 – 19 April 2019)

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)


[Philippines] National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP): “Butuan radio reporter dies after stabbing



[Regional] Journalist safety declines as authoritarian regimes tighten grip on media —RSF


General news

Reporters Without Borders (RSF): “2019 RSF INDEX | Asia-Pacific press freedom impacted by political change

“With totalitarian propaganda, censorship, intimidation, physical violence and cyber-harassment, a lot of courage is needed nowadays to work independently as a journalist in the Asia-Pacific countries, where democracies are struggling to resist various forms of disinformation.”


Global Editors Network (GEN). “Data Journalism Awards 2019: 608 projects, from 62 areas/countries

“Submissions to the Data Journalism Awards 2019 closed on 7 April 2019 and the competition, organised by the Global Editors Network, with support from the Google News Initiative, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Microsoft, received 608 submissions of the highest standards from 62 areas/countries…. Over the past eight years, the Global Editors Network has organised the competition to celebrate and credit outstanding work in the field of data-driven journalism worldwide…. This year, over one third of the entries came from small organisations. The top ten countries with the most projects in the competition this year are: United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Germany, Philippines, Spain, and the Russian Federation. We also got entries from Mongolia, Pakistan, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Burundi.”



New Naratif: “Our Silence Does Not Mean You Can Speak for Us

“The international media is ignoring the voices of those who are harder to reach, and this reliance on convenience has only turned up pieces that portray Bruneian and LGBT lives as little more than shoddy sketches of a country already exoticised by default. This is where the lack of consistent coverage of and interest in Brunei has come back to bite the international press; now that a big story has broken, many members of the foreign press simply lack the context, understanding and contacts to dig beneath the surface. Parachute journalism, even by the most experienced and well-meaning of correspondents, can usually only get one so far…. As the backlash persists, if sources continue to come from those in more privileged positions, others like women and trans people will not only be spoken over, but also spoken for, furthering the oppression that the world is apparently outraged by. If foreign reporters are keen to get the story from those in the country, they need to try harder to get more inclusive and nuanced narratives than what’s easily presented to them.”



Voice of America (VOA) Khmer: “Reporters Without Borders Says Cambodia Media Freedoms Plummeted in 2018

“A new report from media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders has degraded Cambodia over its record on media freedoms in 2018…. In the group’s Press Freedom Index 2018 the group said Cambodia’s increasing closeness with China and fall out with the west had led to the increased restrictions, seeing its rank slip to 143 out of 180 nations included in the report.”



Today: “Getting people to wise up to fake news an ongoing battle in Indonesia

“Political analysts and journalists in Indonesia said that the scourge of fake news in the country has worsened in the past few years, aided by a population increasingly connected to mobile phones and the Internet, as well as low digital literacy and educational levels, especially in the rural areas…. And the circulation of fake news intensified during the hustings, they noted, before some 192 million Indonesians head to the ballot box on Wednesday (April 17) to elect their president and parliament.”

See also:

A day before Indonesia votes, fact-checkers ramp up efforts to debunk fake news



Al Jazeera: “The media backstory behind Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption case

“Last week, Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, went on trial in one of the biggest corruption scandals the world has seen. The case involves the state development fund: 1Malaysia Development Berhad – known in the media as 1MDB. It lost billions of dollars – almost $700m of which is alleged to have ended up in Najib’s own bank account…. The Malaysian media are all over the story, but it was not always that way. The trial could not have happened without the collaborative work of journalists both inside and outside the country.”


Malay Mail: “With BN defeated, Malaysia leaps 21 places in Press Freedom Index

“Malaysia has climbed 21 places to rank 123rd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) annual World Press Freedom Index, following the shock results of the 14th general elections…. According to RSF, the improvement in Malaysia’s ranking was due to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition victory last year defeating Barisan Nasional (BN) which had ruled for six decades.”



Reuters. “‘The people’s messengers’: Myanmar’s satirical poets target censorship

“The military junta that ruled Myanmar for decades outlawed thangyat performances but they resumed in 2013 after a return to semi-civilian rule. Many supporters of Suu Kyi’s party pushed for the revival…. But in March, ahead of this year’s celebrations, authorities in Yangon, home of the most elaborate performances, set up a panel to scrutinize the lyrics of thangyat, and performers must now seek its approval…. The panel aims at averting ethnic or religious conflict, rather than censorship, its chairman, Zaw Aye Maung, told Reuters by telephone.”

See also:

Rights group urges Myanmar to drop charges against satirical performers, filmmaker

Human Rights Watch (HRW). “Myanmar: Satire is Not a Crime

The New York Times. “Aung San Suu Kyi Has a New Target: Political Satire


The Pulitzer Prizes: “Staff of Reuters, with notable contributions from Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo

“For expertly exposing the military units and Buddhist villagers responsible for the systematic expulsion and murder of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, courageous coverage that landed its reporters in prison.”



Rappler.com: “Manila court defers arraignment of Maria Ressa

“The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 reset the arraignment of Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa on Tuesday, April 16, over one count of cyber libel…. The arraignment of Ressa’s co-accused and the author of the article in question, former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr, was also reset…. Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa deferred arraignment to allow both journalists to file a motion for reconsideration on the denial of their earlier motion to quash…. The new schedule for their arraignment is May 17.”

See also:

Court junks Ressa appeal, says cyber libel valid 12 years post-publication

GMA News: “Court refuses to junk cyber libel charge vs. Maria Ressa

INQUIRER.net: “Maria Ressa arraignment for libel reset by court

TIME. “100 Most Influential People 2019: MARIA RESSA


Philstar.com: “Amid reports on wealth, Duterte says some journalists ‘paid to attack’

“President Rodrigo Duterte accused some in media of being paid to write hit pieces as he brushed off reports on the increase of his wealth while in public service. Duterte claimed some journalists produce ‘false reports’ to serve their ‘clients.’”

See also:

Duterte slams media over report on wealth: Bayad ‘yan lahat, mga pulubi kayo (They’re all paid, all of you are beggars)”

INQUIRER.net. “Duterte blasts media anew: ‘You protect the rich’” ; “Duterte threatens to disclose PCIJ’s ‘money’ links

GMA News. “Duterte on reports of his wealth: Investigative reporters are venal” ; “Duterte accuses rich people of manipulating water shortage, financing Rappler


Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): “CPJ mission finds increased intimidation, shrinking space for free press in the Philippines

“A Committee to Protect Journalists mission to the Philippines, led by Board Chair Kathleen Carroll, found increasing levels of intimidation and a shrinking space for the free press in the country. The mission–joined by Peter Greste, director of the Australia-based Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom (AJF), and CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler–is in Manila this week, meeting with a wide range of journalists and government officials…. Based on these meetings, CPJ is extremely concerned about the various types of formal and informal pressure that journalists face. A series of 11 legal cases against the news website Rappler that appear to be politically motivated have created a sense of fear throughout the media industry, leading to self-censorship. Government officials have repeatedly attacked the press, and are threatening to withhold the license of the TV network ABS-CBN.”

See also:

Philstar.com. “Palace: Foreign journos’ findings on press freedom baseless, ‘hasty generalization’

INQUIRER.net: “Egco calls out CPJ depiction of PH media situation as ‘twisted, unjust, unfair’

SunStar Manila. “Palace: PH journos enjoy ‘free marketplace of ideas’

ABS-CBN News: “Justice chief rejects journalism watchdog’s findings on state of PH press freedom

Manila Bulletin: “Justice Secretary assures press freedom remains high


EngageMedia: “Truth Tellers

“Truth Tellers is a stand-alone film on the two women protagonists from the Philippines, veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona, and young indigenous community journalist Kimberlie Quitasol. Through their work in an increasingly hostile environment, we learn, too, the stories of the marginalised people that they cover. This film explores the passion of alternative media practice and exposes the true nature of objectivity and truth-telling.”


INQUIRER.net: “PH ranks 134th in 2019 World Press Freedom Index

“The Philippines ranked 134th out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, an international organization reported Thursday (18 April 2019)…. According to the index released by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, the Philippines dropped one spot from its rank in the 2018 index.”

See also:

ABS-CBN News: “PH slips one rank in world press-freedom index

Philstar.com: “Philippines slips further on World Press Freedom index


INQUIRER.net: “Website of red-tagged Ibon Foundation cyber-attacked, says exec

“Red-tagged think-tank Ibon Foundation has reported that cyber-attackers took down its website on Maundy Thursday (19 April 2019)…. Ibon Foundation Executive Director Sonny Africa in a tweet said: ‘No, IBON’s website isn’t on vacation… and apparently neither are cyber-attackers!  Working on resurrection….’ A visit to Ibon Foundation’s website would show a notification saying, ‘it appears you have no permission to access this page. 403 error. Forbidden’. A 403 error is a hypertext transfer protocol code, which tells internet users that they are trying to access a website deemed forbidden.”

See also:

Rappler.com: “Ibon Foundation claims attack on website



Yahoo! News: “(Editorial) Singapore media practitioners voice concerns over proposed fake news law

“Several current and former media practitioners have released a statement expressing their disappointment and concerns over the proposed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) tabled in Parliament on 1 April…. The writers – who include Yahoo News Singapore contributor PN Balji, Howard Lee,  Choo Zheng Xi, Ravi Philemon, Joshua Chiang, Kumaran Pillai and Braema Mathi – said in the statement released on Thursday (18 April) that their objections to the Bill are based on three concerns: The excessive infringement on freedom of expression, which will impact the work of media practitioners; The government’s inability to appreciate the digital news industry and to work with media practitioners to combat disinformation; and The increasing lack of government accountability to citizens.”

See also:

Today: “Draft fake news laws an ‘exercise of govt power’ to set out the truth


Yahoo! News: “Singapore ranks 151st in 2019 World Press Freedom Index, unchanged since 2017

“Singapore was ranked 151st in the latest Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index released on Thursday (18 April), a position it has held since 2017…. The Republic’s position was below its Asian peers including Malaysia (123rd), Myanmar (138th), Hong Kong (73rd), Japan (67th), and Taiwan (42nd) in the RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index. South Korea ranked the highest in the region at 41st.”


CNA: “Nas Daily fan meet a ‘non-cause based’ event, Public Order Act permit not required: Police

“The upcoming fan meet with vlogger Nas Daily at the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a “non-cause based event” and does not require a permit under the Public Order Act (POA), said the Singapore Police Force (SPF) on Friday (Apr 19) … SPF said that it was aware of false claims that there were ‘double standards applied for the granting of permits’ with respect to the event on Saturday.”



Bangkok Post: “(Editorial) Allow judicial criticism

“With ‘insult of court’ being perceived by some as a new legal ground exploited to threaten politicians like Mr Piyabutr (Saengkanokkul), law enforcement officials must treat the case carefully and take into account universally-accepted legal principles when it comes to considering what criticism of the court is punishable and what is not…. Given that the public still has a mixed understanding of the issue, open debate on principles of relevant laws is critical. Without clear interpretation, laws run the risk of being further abused by individuals or organisations to serve their personal or political gains — similar to how the lese majeste and sedition laws have been exploited in past years.”


Al Jazeera: “Will you … cross the line?

“Thailand is one of the toughest nations in the world to make political art. Since the 2014 military coup, galleries have been raided, artwork banned and performers arrested. Despite the crackdown, artists are determined to find ways to express their views.”



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