Weekly Media Roundup (16 – 22 March 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) 


[Cambodia] Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM). Siem Reap tourism association sues journalist over ‘false information’


[Malaysia] PRESS STATEMENT: Geramm condemns harassment by Umno leaders and supporters towards two Malaysiakini interns


[Philippines] National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP): “Gumaca radio station manager harassed by mayor” 


[Vietnam] Facebook posts critical of cybersecurity law land activist two years in jail



[Malaysia] Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ): “Freedom of speech, with responsibility” 


สมาคมนักข่าวนักหนังสือพิมพ์แห่งประเทศไทย (Thai Journalists Association, TJA): “แถลงการณ์ร่วม | เรื่อง ขอให้สื่อมวลชนต้องใช้ ‘เสรีภาพบนความรับผิดชอบ’ ร่วมสกัดกั้นข่าวปลอม (Journalist groups release a joint statement and have cautioned on online information and social media: “the media need to use freedom more responsibly.” The statement urges print, broadcast, and online media to uphold ethics and professional standards, especially during these elections.)” 



[Indonesia] Forum Jurnalis Perempuan Indonesia (FJPI, Women Journalists Forum of Indonesia): The Power of Compassion in Disaster Reporting


[Thailand] Nation troops to polls as media remain hobbled by repressive laws

See also: 

From Hope to Ballot: The Advance Vote


General news 

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ): “Global media back call for UN to adopt convention on safety of journalists” 

“Representatives from governments in every continent today (19 March 2019) joined the IFJ, journalists unions, editors groups, public broadcasters and media organisations in a united call for the United Nations to take action to tackle impunity by adopting a Convention on the safety and protection of journalists.” 


Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): “The Last Column” 

“Marie Colvin. Samir Kassir. James Foley. Shujaat Bukhari. These are just a few of the more than 1,300 journalists who have been killed in the line of duty. To honor their memories, we gathered a selection of their last works to share them widely with the world…. Introducing The Last Column, a way to remember those who gave their lives to uncover the truth, and to demand justice so those responsible for their murders are held accountable.” 


Facebook: “Supporting Research on News Deserts” 

“Over the last twenty-five years, news deserts – communities with little or no local reporting – have emerged and continue to spread in the United States. As this phenomenon has been studied and measured, so have its negative effects: according to Penny Abernathy, Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina, ‘Our sense of community and our trust in democracy at all levels suffer when journalism is lost or diminished.’” 

See also: 

The Associated Press (AP): “Facebook says service hindered by lack of local news” 

Mashable: “Facebook fights local ‘news deserts’ it helped create” 


Southeast Asia 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF): “Thailand urged to respect Vietnamese blogger’s refugee status” 

“Following a Thai police raid two weeks ago on the home of Bach Hong Quyen, a Vietnamese blogger who fled his country and currently lives in Bangkok, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) fears that the Thai authorities could allow Vietnamese agents to abduct Quyen and urges them to respect his UN-guaranteed status as a political refugee…. Bach Hong Quyen, who has lived in Bangkok since May 2017, has been in hiding ever since the police came and questioned him at his home on 1 March. He fears that he could be arrested at any moment and deported back to Vietnam although his refugee status is guaranteed by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).” 


Philippine News Agency (PNA): “ASEAN workshop on fighting fake news opens in Bangkok” 

“Journalists from member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered here to further strengthen the fight against the prevalence of fake news and disinformation…. The workshop, ‘Maintaining Credibility and Trust in Journalism’, being held at the Amari Watergate Hotel runs from Thursday to Friday (21-22 March 2019). It aims to give participants the opportunity to share their experiences in dealing with disinformation and explore approaches they may use against fake news, through the sharing of experiences by various ASEAN journalists.” 


Fortune. “Grab vs. Go-Jek: Inside Asia’s Battle of the ‘Super Apps’” 

“With a 2017 GDP of $2.8 trillion, Southeast Asia, were it a single country, would be the world’s seventh largest economy; at its current growth rate, it would rank No. 4 by 2030. But for investors, market size is only part of the appeal. Super-apps promise a new mode of connecting with customers and an opportunity to amass a vast data trove about their preferences and purchasing behavior. It’s a model pioneered in China by Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat; Mark Zuckerberg, in a recent blog post, hinted that he hopes Facebook can emulate it. Many believe revenue from super-app services and the data they generate will prove to be more stable, more profitable, and easier to scale than revenues from ride-hailing—where profits have been elusive even as growth skyrockets…. In Southeast Asia, the super-app model is evolving more rapidly than anywhere else in the world. That helps explain why Grab has raised $8.6 billion in venture funding from powerful players including Japan’s SoftBank Group and Toyota Motor, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, and Microsoft. Grab’s most recent funding round values it at more than $14 billion, making Grab Southeast Asia’s most valuable unicorn.” 


Nikkei Asian Review: “Southeast Asia hastens 5G shift to close development gap” 

“Southeast Asian nations are scrambling to introduce 5G networks, determined not to fall behind developed nations as the technology is critical to innovations such as autonomous driving and digital medical services…. Thailand and Vietnam plan to start 5G services as early as 2020, trailing rich nations by only a year or two. In contrast, they launched 4G services five years after their Western counterparts.” 



Radio Free Asia (RFA): “Cambodian Court Rules Former RFA Reporters’ Cases Will Proceed to Trial” 

“On Friday (15 March 2019), Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Pech Vicheathor wrapped up his examination of the charges facing the two men (Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin) and ordered their cases (accused of “espionage”) sent to trial…. A date for the hearing has not been set.” 


Voice of America (VOA): “Cambodia Takes Aim at Critics Who Post on Facebook” 

“Article 41 enshrined in the Constitution of Cambodia states that ‘Khmer citizens shall have the freedom to express their personal opinions, the freedom of press, of publication and of assembly’ … All told, more than a dozen Cambodians have been arrested or detained for making political statements on Facebook, some of them after running afoul of a lese-majeste law passed in February 2018 that criminalizes criticism of the king and allows for sentences as long as five years. In some cases, however, the posters were released after writing a letter of apology to Hun Sen and pledging to stop political posting on Facebook.” 

See also: 

Cambodians Urged to Use Care on Social Media Platforms” 

Nikkei Asian Review: “Cambodia squeezes online speech despite threat of EU backlash” 


The Cambodia Daily: “Bernard Krisher, Journalist and Philanthropist, Dies at 87” 

“Bernard Krisher, chairman of World Assistance for Cambodia, publisher of The Cambodia Daily and former Newsweek Tokyo bureau chief, died on March 5 at a hospital in Tokyo. He was 87…. His death from heart failure was disclosed by his family following a private burial in New York…. Krisher, who began his career as a foreign correspondent in Japan, dedicated his last three decades to humanitarian work in Cambodia.” 

See also: 

Voice of America (VOA) Khmer: “Bernard Krisher, Pioneering English-Language Newspaper Proprietor, Dies Aged 87” 

The New York Times: “Bernard Krisher, Free Press Champion in Cambodia, Dies at 87” 



The New York Times: “Professor Sings at Indonesia Rally. He Faces 4 Years in Jail for Defaming Army.” 

“By some measures, Indonesia has become one of Asia’s more democratic countries since the fall of the military dictator Suharto in 1998. Every five years, Indonesia holds the world’s largest direct presidential elections. Next month, President Joko Widodo, a former furniture manufacturer, will again face his 2014 opponent, Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general and Suharto’s son-in-law…. But at the same time, the authorities stifle free expression by enforcing the criminal defamation law against citizens who protest government policies, complain about company practices or take offense at sexual harassment in the workplace.” 


The Jakarta Post: “We’re witnessing identity politics in extreme, violent forms: Deputy foreign minister” 

“Southeast Asia is struggling to uphold democracy, facing challenges caused by identity politics, which  limits freedom of expression and religious that could eventually lead to human rights violations…. ‘We are witnessing the politics of identity in extreme or even violent form,’ Deputy Foreign Minister AM Fachir said in his keynote speech at the seminar in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Monday (18 March 2019).” 


International Federation of Journalists (IFJ): “Timor Leste, Indonesia strengthen relations in press freedom” 

“During a visit to Indonesia, the Timor Leste Press Council signed several agreements with local organisations to promote press freedom in Timor Leste and Indonesia. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the collaborative work to improve press freedom in the region…. On March 14, the Timor Leste Press Council met with the Legal Aid Institute and the Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) and signed cooperation agreements to work together to enhance efforts to protect journalists and press freedom in Indonesia and Timor Leste. IFJ affiliate, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Jakarta chapter supported the establishment of LBH Pers.” 



Malaysiakini: “Umno leaders, supporters harass M’kini interns after altercation” 

“Umno leaders and supporters harassed two Malaysiakini interns who were assigned to cover former premier Najib Abdul Razak’s talk in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon (22 March 2019), which later witnessed a fracas erupting across the road…. Journalism student Mariam Nizar, 25, said she was harassed by Petaling Jaya Selatan Umno chief Mutalib Abdul Rahim and Umno supreme council member Lokman Noor Adam…. The pair was upset with Malaysiakini’s report about a Universiti Malaya student leader being held in a headlock during the incident and vented their anger on her.” 

See also: 

UM condemns provocations, urges students, ‘supporters’ to be mature” 


Columbia Journalism Review (CJR): “How one election meant sweeping press freedoms in Malaysia” 

“But last year an election abruptly shifted the atmosphere, and brought unexpected freedoms, especially for the media … The country has since seen a blossoming of press freedom—an exception in a region where greater censorship and state control is becoming the norm.” 

See also: 

Free Malaysia Today (FMT): “PH committed to freedom of expression, says Syed Saddiq” 


Global Voices: “Controversy at Malaysia’s Women’s Day march leads to its organizers being probed for sedition” 

“At least seven organizers of the Women’s Day march in Malaysia were informed by the police that they could face sanctions for possible violations of the Sedition Act and Peaceful Assembly Act…. On 9 March 2019, hundreds participated in the ‘Hentikan Keganasan, Hormati Perempuan’ (Stop violence, respect women) march held in Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital. The event issued five official demands: End violence based on gender and sexual orientation, end child marriages, ensure a woman’s freedom to make choices over her own body and life, ensure a dignified minimum wage, and ensure the destruction of patriarchy.” 

See also: 

Gay Star News: “How Malaysian newspapers are fueling LGBTI hatred” 



Frontier Myanmar. “Episode 70: Kachin reporters’ case latest concern for press freedom” 

“Last month, two reporters working for the Myitkyina News Journal in Kachin State were allegedly detained and assaulted by staff members from a mining company who were angry about a story their publication had reported…. This week, Doh Athan speaks to one of the journalists attacked and asks what the incident means for press freedom in the country, which many people believe has deteriorated since the National League for Democracy came to power.” 



ABS-CBN News: “CA upholds conviction of Drilon critic over libelous social media posts” 

“The Court of Appeals has stood by its earlier decision upholding the conviction of an Iloilo City-based journalist over libelous social media posts against Sen. Franklin Drilon…. The CA Former Second Division also defended its decision to impose up to 4 years and 2 months imprisonment on Manuel ‘Boy’ Mejorada, also a former provincial administrator.” 

See also: 

INQUIRER.net: “CA upholds earlier conviction, jail term for libel case vs Drilon critic” 

GMA News: “CA stands by affirmation of Drilon critic’s libel conviction” 


INQUIRER.net: “Palace, privacy commission probe possible FOI website data leak” 

“Malacañang is now investigating a possible glitch at the Freedom of Information (FOI) website after complaints from users saying their identification (ID) cards used in accessing the site were being revealed online…. Lawyer Tristan De Guzman of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Legislative Affairs, who is also part of the team tasked to oversee the FOI implementation, said their office had already coordinated with the National Privacy Commission (NPC) to look into the issue.” 


The Intercept: “Inside the video surveillance program IBM built for Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte” 

“In the years since the IBM program was phased out, Philippine police interest in cutting-edge surveillance infrastructure has hardly waned. National authorities are now looking to deploy real-time facial recognition across the country, in a project called ‘Safe Philippines,’ and have considered technology from a variety of international vendors, including the Chinese telecom Huawei…. In December, a local newspaper reported that the Philippines had secured a 20 billion-peso loan for the installation of thousands of surveillance cameras across Davao City and metro Manila in collaboration with a Chinese firm, an installation that would reportedly include a national command center and feature facial and vehicle recognition software. In a January interview on Filipino television, Epimaco Densing III, undersecretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, said that a goal of the project is to detect the faces of terrorist suspects and prevent crimes before they take place.” 


INQUIRER.net. “Robredo: Tough laws needed to protect polls vs ‘dirty’ money, social media” 

“Vice President Leni Robredo has called for the crafting of stricter election laws to counter ‘dirty politics’ spawned by the influence of money and smear campaigns on social media…. In an event in Pangasinan on Wednesday (20 March 2019), Robredo lamented that candidates with more money have an advantage in elections because the current laws ‘have no bite’.” 

See also: 

Rappler.com: “Robredo wants social media regulated to stop disinformation” 


The Philippine Star: “Freedom of Information invoked on Kaliwa Dam deal” 

“Several groups are pressing the government to make public the contract it has entered into with China on the Kaliwa Dam project…. Human rights lawyer and opposition senatorial candidate Chel Diokno yesterday (21 March 2019) said groups opposing the Kaliwa Dam project have sent the government several letters requesting access to official documents related to the project, invoking the Freedom of Information (FOI) law…. Diokno, who serves as lead counsel of the groups, warned that the government faces legal action if it fails to comply…. He said they sent the FOI letters of request to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. of the Department of Foreign Affairs.” 

See also: 

Philippine News Agency: “FOI vows to keep up with ‘best practices’ on info campaigns” 



The Straits Times: “Blogger plans to appeal against decision over PM Lee’s libel suit” 

“Blogger Leong Sze Hian plans to appeal against a High Court judgment dismissing his counterclaim in a libel suit brought against him by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong…. In a written judgment issued last week, Justice Aedit Abdullah had struck out Mr Leong’s counterclaim that the libel suit is an abuse of court process, saying the legal basis it was premised on did not exist. The Court of Appeal had ruled in an earlier case that abuse of court process is not recognised in Singapore law…. Lawyer Lim Tean, representing Mr Leong, said in a statement yesterday that in striking out the counterclaim, the High Court was bound by the earlier apex court ruling, which ‘sets down a blanket rule that there is no tort of abuse of process and providing for no exceptions’.” 


Asia Times: “Hear no evil, see no evil in Singapore” 

“Known for their abrasive sound and unhallowed imagery, the group (Swedish black metal band Watain) had been given official approval to play their first-ever show in the wealthy city-state on March 7. Fans, however, were left disappointed when a media regulator announced the show’s cancellation just three hours before it was set to blast … The ban has sparked a debate over whether music and other artistic expression that gives voice to divisive or potentially problematic ideologies have a place in a nation that stringently regulates public speech and media in the name of religious and social harmony…. The authorities’ handling of the concert’s cancellation has also courted criticism.” 



CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. “Media censored, activists silenced and opposition weakened ahead of Thai elections” 

“Elections will be held in Thailand on 24th March 2019 for the first time since the military coup in May 2014. The military government had repeatedly pushed back the timeline to hold the elections after seizing power. The junta has also relied on a range of repressive laws and decrees to quell dissent and jail opponents … Civil society groups believe that the military government has failed to create conditions for a free and fair national election. Among their concerns raised include the existence of repressive laws that restrict fundamental freedoms; media censorship; lack of equal access to the media; the outsized role of a junta-appointed Senate in forming a government; and the lack of independence and impartiality of the national election commission.” 

See also: 

The ASEAN Post: “Human rights a non-issue in Thai election” 

Al Jazeera: “‘Gagged’ Thai media fights for a voice as elections loom” 

Reuters: “In Thai election, new ‘war room’ polices social media” 

Just Security: “Taking No Chances, Thailand’s Junta Locks Down the Internet ahead of Elections” 

The Nation: “(Opinion) Climate of fear” 

Human Rights Watch (HRW). “Thailand: Structural Flaws Subvert Election | Stacked Senate, Media Restrictions, Repressive Laws Undermine Right to Vote” 


The Nation: “Thanathorn, netizens slam Nation TV” 

“Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit yesterday (20 March 2019) beat a right-leaning television station at its own game, challenging it to prove the authenticity of an audio clip alleged to be a conversation between him and ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…. Nation TV yesterday was in the hot seat after the audio clip was aired on one of its most popular news programmes, hosted by its star anchor Kanok Ratwongsakul…. The clip featured an alleged conversation between the two politicians discussing post-election prospects. Netizens criticised the station, saying it had shown itself to be politically compromised by reporting ‘fake news’ that favoured the pro-junta bloc.” 

See also: 

Stop spreading ‘fake news’, media told” 

Khaosod English: “Nation Threatens to Sue Candidate Smeared in Doctored Clip” 

Bangkok Post: “Future Forward leader demands apology from Nation TV” 



South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Vietnam jails dissident for ‘reactionary’ Facebook posts that criticised state surveillance and long leases for foreign investors” 

“A Vietnamese activist was sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday (20 March 2019) for ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ in the conservative communist state that has seen an uptick in dissident detentions under a hardline leadership…. Le Minh The was convicted for a series of Facebook posts following a half-day trial in southern Can Tho province, state media reported.” 

See also: 

Radio Free Asia (RFA): “Vietnam Court Jails Activist For 2 Years Over Facebook Posts” 


Voice of America (VOA): “Vietnamese Blogger Who Vanished in Thailand Jailed in Hanoi” 

“A Vietnamese blogger who vanished in Thailand earlier this year is being held in a Hanoi prison, his friend and wife confirmed Thursday (21 March 2019)…. Truong Duy Nhat wrote weekly posts about politics and current affairs for Radio Free Asia (RFA) and last posted about the prospects for change in Vietnam in light of major anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela…. All independent media is banned in Vietnam and bloggers, activists and rights lawyers are routinely jailed.” 


The Vietnamese. “Vietnam: Stop The Continued Harassment And Intimidation Of Our Editor, Pham Doan Trang” 

“March 18, 2019, The Vietnamese Magazine’s editorial board received an urgent message tonight from journalist Pham Doan Trang that the secret police have found her current residence and started to surveil the location…. Ms. Pham is a member of our editorial board and a founding member of our Vietnamese site, Luat Khoa online magazine.” 


The Washington Post: “Under Vietnam’s new cybersecurity law, U.S. tech giants face stricter censorship” 

“Under a new cybersecurity law that took effect Jan. 1 and may require compliance within a year, those restrictions are poised to become even more onerous. The Vietnamese legislation could serve as a model for other repressive governments of how to control information and suppress dissent online while at the same time continuing to grow a vibrant tech sector — with activists fearing companies will choose lucrative market access over their censorship concerns.” 


VNExpress International: “Foreign investors deeply impressed with Vietnam startup scene” 

“With its demographics and state of technological development, Vietnam is all set to churn out highly successful start-ups, foreign investors say … Last year Vietnamese startups attracted 92 investment deals totaling $889 million, three times the value in 2017, according to Hanoi-based startup accelerator Topica Founder Institute…. The five most profitable fields for startups were fin-tech, e-commerce, traveltech, logistics, and edtech. Fintech returned to the top spot in terms of investment in 2018 with eight deals totaling $117 million.” 

See also: 

Xinhua. “Vietnam to launch 5G service soon: minister” 



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