WEEKLY MEDIA ROUNDUP (17 – 23 February 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)



Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR): “Rappler Banned from Covering President Duterte

See also:

CMFR Statement: “Once Again, Stand for Media Freedom
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP): “NUJP slams Duterte order to bar reporter from covering Malacañang




Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM): “Challenges for Independent Media 2017 Report




Alarming Amendments in Cambodia




Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ): “Press freedom, right to know rank high in shout out posts


General news

Amnesty International: “State-sponsored hate spurs new era of social activism

“The willingness of prominent leaders to tout ‘fake news’ in order to manipulate public opinion, coupled with attacks on institutions that act as checks on power, show that free speech will be a key battle-ground for human rights this year, said Amnesty International.”


Southeast Asia

Heinrich Boell Foundation. “Re-thinking media reform in Southeast Asia: promoting a participatory approach

“Instead of top-down reforms for the media, the countries in Southeast Asia need policies that prioritize the public’s interests. Only with the meaningful participation of civil society can these reforms become sustainable while supporting democratization.”



Khmer Times. “Report: Media freedom ‘collapsed’

“The Cambodian Centre for Independent Media has warned that press freedom in the country collapsed last year, prompting government officials to rebut the claims…. The centre yesterday released its Challenges for Independent Media 2017 report at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh.”

See also:

The Phnom Penh Post: “Press freedom ‘collapsed’ in 2017, journalist survey says
Voice of America (VOA). “Media Monitor: No Press Freedom Left in Cambodia
Channel News Asia. “Cambodia media freedom in decline, journalists harassed: Report


The Phnom Penh Post: “As UN raises concerns over amendments, government says new lèse majesté law will apply to media

“The Senate yesterday (21 February 2018) passed controversial amendments to the Constitution and Penal Code despite an appeal from the United Nations to reconsider their impact on free speech and political participation…. The amendments include a ban on insulting the King, or lèse majesté law, which carries a punishment of one to five years in prison and a fine of 2 million riel to 10 million riel (about $500 to $2,500), and which the minister of justice yesterday noted for the first time would also apply to media outlets. Similar laws have been used in Thailand to curb free speech and crack down on political dissidents and journalists.”

See also:

Updates: King nominates senators, again transfers authority to sign in controversial legal changes before leaving country
United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (UNOHCHR): “UN experts say constitutional changes in Cambodia impinge on democracy



UCAN News: “Indonesia’s press decry threat to press freedom

“Indonesian journalists say proposed changes to the criminal code target reporters and make them vulnerable to criminal charges…. Sixteen articles in the revised draft threaten the freedom of the press, they said.”

See also:

Voice of America (VOA): “Indonesia Quietly Passes Law to Quash Criticism of Politicians
Reuters: “Indonesian president puts off signing law protecting parliament


Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF): “Indonesia must regain authority over ‘rogue’ security forces – PFF

“As previously noted by PFF, security forces in Papua have long operated outside the law, defying Indonesia constitutional protections for free speech, along with free press legislation…PFF is calling on Jakarta to ‘end a slow genocide against free speech, and assert authority over rogue security forces.'”



Malay Mail Online: “MCMC exec wants 10-fold hike for fake news penalties

“New laws to curb fake news should include deterrent punishments, said Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chief operating officer Datuk Mazlan Ismail…. According to Berita Harian, Mazlan said the current punishments under Section 233 (1) Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 were insufficient to dissuade would-be offenders.”

See also:

The Malaysian Insight: “MCMC proposes RM500,000 fine, 10 years’ jail for fake news


Malaysiakini: “FZ ordered to pay RM185k for defaming Guan Eng over Merc

“The High Court in Penang today (19 February 2018) ordered the now-defunct news portal FZ.com and its managing editor Terence Fernandez to pay a total of RM320,000 to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businessperson Tan Kok Ping for defamation.”

See also:

Malay Mail Online. “Report: Guan Eng wins defamation suit against FZ
Free Malaysia Today: “Guan Eng, tycoon win suits over 2014 report on Benz purchase


The Star Online: “Fahmi Reza jailed one month, fined RM30,000 over offensive caricature of PM

“Activist and graphic designer Fahmi Reza (pic) has been sentenced to one month’s jail and fined RM30,000 for posting a caricature of a national leader on social media…. Fahmi, 40, whose full name is Mohd Fahmi Reza Mohd Zarin, was found guilty by the Sessions Court here Tuesday (Feb 20) of uploading an edited image of the Prime Minister on Facebook with the intention to offend.”

See also:

Malaysiakini: “Artist gets a month’s jail, RM30k fine for Najib clown drawing
The Malaysian Insight: “Graphic designer guilty of offending PM with clown cartoon” ; “Legal experts raise alarm bells over Fahmi’s conviction



The Financial Times (FT). “Hate speech, atrocities and fake news: the crisis of democracy in Myanmar

“A uniquely unsettling moment in the country’s history is playing out in the press and social media, where new internet freedoms have enabled both incisive journalism and the spread of hate speech and false reports. Some journalists have been arrested or received death threats. Others are preparing to leave. Myanmar’s estrangement from the west is deepening, as is its determination to tell its own story on its own terms — even when the facts don’t line up.”

See also:

The Splice Newsroom: “This is life as a fixer in Myanmar’s increasingly hostile media space.


Reuters. “Civilian witness contradicts Myanmar police on Reuters reporters’ arrest: defense

“The first civilian to testify in the case of two Reuters reporters accused of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act contradicted police and prosecutors on Wednesday (21 February 2018) about where the pair were arrested, a defense lawyer said…’We kept arguing about it and during the examination today the witness Win Lwin Oo said it is not No.3 road but Sin Gyi restaurant, which is beside Saung Yeik Mon,’ defense lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told reporters after the hearing.”



SunStar Bacolod: “Media groups seek probe into assault of news reporter

“Media groups in Bacolod City called for a swift investigation on the assault of a journalist writing for a regional paper…. The Negros Press Club (NPC) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)-Bacolod strongly condemned the assault and threat on Panay News’ Ranie Azue, who is also an NPC former president.”


philstar.com: “Bong Go accuses media firms of sowing intrigue, blog of inciting revolt

“Christopher ‘Bong’ Go, special assistant to the president, on Monday hit a news outlet and a blog for publishing ‘malicious’ articles that he said encourage Filipinos to overthrow President Rodrigo Duterte…’It’s very malicious. They sowed intrigue among (Defense Secretary Delfin) Lorenzana, (Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Rey Leonardo) Guerrero and the president so that boss would get angry at them,’ he said in Filipino, labelling the article ‘fake news.'”

See also:

Rappler.com: “Rappler statement on Bong Go’s ‘fake news’ accusation
INQUIRER.net: “Inquirer issues statement on Bong Go’s allegation of fake news


Rappler.com: “Rappler’s Pia Ranada barred from entering Malacañang Palace

“The Presidential Security Group (PSG) barred Malacañang reporter Pia Ranada from entering Malacañang Palace on Tuesday, February 20, a day after the Senate hearing on the frigate deal attended by Special Assistant to the President Christopher ‘Bong’ Go…. Ranada was entering the gate of the New Executive Building at around 10:35 am to catch Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque’s press briefing.”

See also:

Duterte himself banned Rappler reporter from Malacañang coverage” ; “Rappler to Malacañang: Don’t use power to obstruct” ; “PSG commander to Rappler reporter: Be thankful Palace guard didn’t hurt you” ; “Rappler no longer accredited for Malacañang coverage – Palace official” ; “Rappler reporter remains in Malacañang Press Corps unless SEC ruling final – MPC” ; “Rappler to Harry Roque: Duterte ban about press freedom” ; “Rappler reporter now banned from entire Malacañang complex” ; “Duterte to lift ban on Rappler if SEC ruling overturned
ABS-CBN News: “Duterte ordered Palace off-limits for Rappler, reporter says” ; “OPINION: Crackdown on media reeks of fear
CNN Philippines. “Roque: Barring reporters from Palace briefings not a press freedom issue
Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Duterte’s ban on Rappler reporter slammed as ‘censorship’
INQUIRER.net. “Duterte justifies Palace ban on Rappler: ‘They might be CIA sponsored’
Philippine News Agency (PNA). “Aguirre: Palace didn’t violate press freedom
philstar.com. “SEC chair on Rappler ban: Palace accreditation rules must be respected
Al Jazeera: “Duterte bans Rappler reporters from presidential palace
Reuters: “Philippine leader bans news site from covering his events over ‘fake news’


ABS-CBN News. “NBI: Libel raps vs Rappler has no basis

“The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday (22 February 2018) said the cyber libel complaint against news website Rappler has no basis…. The complaint stemmed from a Rappler story in 2012 that linked complainant and businessman Wilfredo Keng to human trafficking and drug smuggling. Keng only filed the case last month…. The 1-year prescription had already lapsed when Keng filed the case, the NBI Legal Service division said.”

See also:

Rappler.com: “NBI junks cyber libel complaint vs Rappler
Manila Standard: “Rappler cleared of cyber libel case
GMA News: “NBI won’t file case vs. Rappler over cyber libel complaint


Rappler.com: “Local bands perform at UP Fair for press freedom

“As part of a series of activities to defend press freedom, advocates held a #BlackFridayForPressFreedom: A UP Fair Live Jam at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman on Friday, February 16…. In a special segment of ‘Cosmos: UP Fair,’ Barbie Almalbis, Mayonnaise, and Silent Sanctuary played their hits in solidarity with the ongoing campaign for press freedom.”



South China Morning Post: “Singapore artist uses Straits Times to illustrate distortions of news media

“Abstracts from The Straits Times, a new series by Singaporean conceptual artist Heman Chong, uses one of the best-known organs of state propaganda in Asia as raw material for a visual rumination about how news is distorted, consumed, regurgitated and reinforced.”



The Nation: “Army under fire for defamation lawsuits against media, rights group over torture

“A media outlet and a human rights defender have been sued by the army for defaming the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4 and Fourth Army Area for alleging torture inside a military base…. Isoc Region 4 and the Fourth Army Area – which is responsible for the military operation to suppress the ongoing insurgency in the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and parts of Songkhla – separately issued defamation lawsuits against the Manager Online editorial team and Patani Human Rights Organisation Network (HAP) founder Ismaael Teh on February 9 and February 14 respectively.”


Bangkok Post: “‘Journalists’ refuse to reveal sex scandal story

“The Thai Journalists Association’s (TJA) insisted Monday (19 February 2018) it would not disclose the full results of a probe into alleged sexual harassment involving a news agency executive and a female subordinate.”

See also:

The Nation: “TJA maintains secrecy in sexual harassment case ‘to protect privacy of all concerned’



The Washington Post. Opinion: “Vietnam’s Internet is in trouble

“Vietnamese authorities have harped of late on the urgency of fighting cybersecurity threats and ‘bad and dangerous content….’ Yet the fight against either ‘fake news’ or misinformation in Vietnam must not be used as a smoke screen for stifling dissenting opinions and curtailing freedom of speech. Doing so would only further stoke domestic cynicism in a country where the sudden expansion of space for free and open discussion has created a kind of high-pressure catharsis online.”



Please refer to this blog for other media, press freedom, and free expression stories not included in this roundup.

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