WEEKLY MEDIA ROUNDUP (17 – 23 March 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)

Case update:


Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR): “Witness Identifies Suspect in Killing of Surigao Broadcaster


General news

United Nations News: “Attacks on women journalists on the rise, online and off – UNESCO

“Over the past 15 years there has been ‘a marked increase’ in cyber harassment, making the safety of women journalists a major issue for reportage in today’s digital era, participants highlighted Thursday (22 March 2018) at a United Nations event.”


Southeast Asia

Council on Foreign Relations: “Can ASEAN Continue to Improve Cybersecurity in the Region and Beyond?

“In the wake of the inability to achieve consensus in the 2016-2017 UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), policymakers are exploring how other multilateral efforts and regional activities can promote cyber stability and security. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) are often identified as venues that could help implement cyber norms, confidence building measures (CBMs), and the like in the Asia-Pacific. With Singapore holding the ASEAN chairmanship this year and its decision to prioritize cyber issues during its tenure, how can it promote this agenda successfully?”

See also:

Jakarta Globe. “Asean Countries Must Prepare for Digital Revolution: IMF


The Sydney Morning Herald: “Facebook is the internet for many people in south-east Asia

“For millions of people across south-east Asia, their smart phone and Facebook are their only interaction with the people who govern them and shape their society…. And that is unlikely to change any time soon, according to Australian National University lecturer Ross Tapsell, even as the social media giant’s reputation and share price take a battering over the alleged improper use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica.”

See also:

Nikkei Asian Review: “Facebook must confront its Asian shortcomings



The Phnom Penh Post: “Post’s bill from tax authority business as usual, says CEO

“The Phnom Penh Post is currently negotiating a tax bill with Cambodia’s General Department of Taxation (GDT), the newspaper’s CEO said on Tuesday, denying media reports that The Post was on the verge of shutting down, and characterising the negotiations as ‘routine’.”

See also:

AEC News Today: “Leaked Letter Fails to Support The Phnom Penh Post Tax Claims” ; “The Tax Man Cometh: Claims The Phnom Penh Post is Living on Borrowed Time (video)
UCAN News: “Phnom Penh Post ‘facing closure’ after huge tax bill


Khmer Times. “RFA journalist is my spy: PM

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has exposed a well-known Radio Free Asia journalist critical of him as his own spy working for the government and asked military officers to protect him from being assassinated…. Speaking on Friday (16 March 2018) with the Cambodian community in Sydney, Mr Hun Sen said RFA journalist Chun Chanboth, who is deputy-director of RFA’s US-based Khmer service, was his spy.”

See also:

The Phnom Penh Post: “PM claims RFA journo worried US will kill him



Coconuts Jakarta: “Tempo editors refuse to bow down and apologize to Islamic Defenders Front over political cartoon

“Last Friday (16 March 2018), Islamic hardline groups headed by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) protested at the offices of national news outlet Tempo over a political cartoon published in their magazine that they perceived to be mocking their leader, pornography case fugitive and firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab…. This morning, Tempo published an editorial piece explaining why they agreed to meet with representatives of FPI but refused to apologize for the cartoon. The editorial, which was published in today’s edition of their newspaper, was also posted online.”

See also:

TEMPO.CO: “Civil Coalition Demand Jokowi to Assure Press Freedom
UCAN News: “Indonesian magazine refuses to apologize for cartoon


TEMPO.CO: “Press Freedom in Indonesia Still Faces Threat

“A mass media researcher Eriyanto said incident threatening the freedom of press continues to take place with a tendency to increase each year. According to Eriyanto, there are averagely 70 cases per year and violence against the press ranges the highest from 2010 to 2017.”


Indonesia at Melbourne. “The Muslim Cyber Army: what is it and what does it want?

“On 1 March, the Indonesian National Police announced the arrest of 14 members (link is external) of the so-called Muslim Cyber Army (MCA) network for defamation, spreading hoax news and hate speech. Although the name might be familiar to most social media and internet users in Indonesia, it remains a nebulous and poorly understood network…. However, the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) has been tracking the group from January 2017. SAFEnet volunteers have interviewed victims, conducted field investigations, monitored social media and analysed social networks. We have uncovered a systematic pattern of attacks, involving the use of social media to target perceived critics and foment social division and hatred.”



Radio Free Asia (RFA): “Activists Urge Pressure After Laos Human Rights Dialog with European Union

“After the meeting on March 15 in Brussels, the EU (European Union) issued a statement saying that ‘during the dialogue, the delegations had the opportunity to engage on a wide spectrum of sensitive issues in a constructive and meaningful manner….’ The EU said topics for the eight round of human rights dialog included ratification of international human rights conventions, rights of vulnerable groups, women and children’s rights, human trafficking, freedom of assembly and association and freedom of expression.”



International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). “Malaysia: Crippling laws must be repealed immediately

“Malaysian Government needs to take immediate steps to repeal legislation that is crippling the media. The IFJ and the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) also want to the government to ensure the Media Council that is being established is independent of the government…. On March 13, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stated at a luncheon with media professionals that the government still intended to establish a self-regulating media body.”


The Malaysian Insight: “1MDB news not recognised by govt is fake news, says minister

“Any news related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) that is not recognised by the authorities is considered false information…. Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Jailani Johari said the case of the state investment fund was under investigation by the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, while investigative reports were tabled to the National Accounts Committee (PAC) made up of  government and opposition representatives.”

See also:

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM). “Combatting fake news: Who are the perpetrators?
Malay Mail Online: “Groups urge Putrajaya to drop proposed law against fake news
The Star Online: “Human rights groups say ‘fake news’ law may stifle whistleblowing
Free Malaysia Today. “Guan Eng: Fake news law and internet laws a rotten cocktail
Malaysiakini: “Proposed ‘fake news’ bill a threat to freedom of expression
Asia Sentinel: “Reform Organizations Protest Malaysia ‘Fake News’ Bill


Malay Mail Online: (Opinion) “My freedom of information request misadventure — Tracy Toh

“Today (19 March 2018) I attempted to file a freedom of information request on a development project that is happening in my neighbourhood. I was told to file for this by the Bukit Gasing ADUN (DAP) after I started asking about the said development project.”


New Straits Times: “Practice self-regulation during online interactions, netizens told

“Netizens should practice self-regulation when using the social media, Communications And Multimedia Content Forum Of Malaysia (CMCF) said today (19 March 2018)…. Its chairman Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar said in this era where people have more access to news on social media, the tendency to misuse the platform is also high.”



Reuters: “Reuters reporters in court 100 days after their arrest in Myanmar

“Two Reuters reporters appeared in a Myanmar court for the 11th time on Wednesday (21 March 2018), which marked 100 days since they were arrested in December and accused of possessing secret government papers…. The court in Yangon is holding preliminary hearings to decide whether reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, will face charges under the colonial-era Officials Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.”

See also:

Statement from Stephen J. Adler, President and Editor-in-Chief, Reuters
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT): “FCCT joins foreign press clubs calling for immediate release of Reuters journalists in Myanmar
Hong Kong Free Press. “100 days in detention: Foreign press club submits 42,000 signature petition urging Myanmar to release Reuters journalists


Columbia Journalism Review (CJR): “In Myanmar, journalists have sided with the military against the Rohingya

“This is by no means the first time Myanmar’s leaders have attempted to muzzle the press and control the narrative during a major crisis. But it may well be the first time senior journalists have jumped to the government’s defense and joined in with attacks against international media…. Myanmar has become increasingly perilous for journalists reporting on abuses against the Rohingya.”


The Washington Post: “Burma considers law that could restrict work of United Nations, nongovernmental groups

“The Draft Law on International Non-Governmental Organizations, a copy of which was reviewed by The Washington Post, contains a vague definition of the groups it would regulate, proposes monitoring of aid groups’ work by Burmese staff and provides the affected organizations with few safeguards against the government suspending their work. This has led some groups to fear it could be used to restrict their work in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar…. The proposed law comes at a time of a wider crackdown on democratic freedoms under Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her government, as they struggle to deal with the fallout of military operations that have sent nearly 700,000 Rohingya fleeing over the border to Bangladesh since August.”


Global Voices. “#SayNOto66d: Documenting the Surge of Online Defamation Cases in Myanmar

“Several advocacy groups in Myanmar have launched a website containing information about online defamation cases in the past five years, as part of a campaign calling for the repeal of Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law which criminalises online defamation.”

See also:

Myanmar Times: “Free speech group launches ‘hate speech tool kit’


Myanmar Times: “Journalists’ group calls for nominations for sixth National Press Awards in May

“The Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA) is calling for nominations for the sixth National Press Awards, which will be held on World Press Freedom Day on May 3…. Local journalists from both print and broadcast journalists are qualified to apply for the awards. The deadline for nominations is March 30. The stories must have been published or aired between April 1 and December 31, 2017.”



Rappler.com: “PRONE TO ABUSE | State surveillance as a tool to silence critics

“State surveillance is not new to the Philippines. Administrations across history had engaged in this monitoring to protect national security – to prevent terrorism, rebellions, and attacks…. The conduct of both physical and communication surveillance, however, can lead to abuse and violation of a citizen’s rights to privacy when left unchecked. It also plays a role in silencing dissent and valid criticism, according to human rights activists.”


BusinessMirror: “Cyber-libel cases rising, as friends turn into foes via online platforms

“With the proliferation of online platforms, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has to deal with the increasing number of cyber-libel cases being filed with the agency, often with people familiar with each other as opposing parties…. Records obtained by the Businessmiror from the DOJ-Office of Cybercrime showed that there are a total of 127 cyber-libel cases filed before the agency last year.”


SunStar Baguio. “PCOO official: There are laws vs fake news

“Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said there are sufficient laws to cover fake news…Banaag said the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the PCOO is coming up with a compilation of laws on how to be more responsible as public officials in spreading information.”

See also:

Manila Bulletin: (Opinions and Editorials) “‘Fake news’ & press freedom


GMA News: “Malacañang media ID becomes subject of ridicule over wrong grammar

“The official press ID of journalists covering Malacañang became the subject of criticism and ridicule after the discovery by some holders of the glaring English grammar mistakes in the inscriptions on the backside.”

See also:

SunStar Manila: “PCOO recalls press ID full of grammatical errors



Asia Sentinel: “Singapore Looks To Tighten Screws on ‘Fake News’

“The government of Singapore, which has some of the most stringent controls on freedom of the press outside of North Korea, is holding an eight-day parliamentary committee hearing into ‘deliberate online falsehoods,’ or fake news…. The hearing, which commenced on March 14 and is scheduled to end on March 29, is said to be ‘looking at ways Singapore can thwart deliberate online falsehoods.’ Officials say the government intends to formulate new legislation in the coming weeks after the hearings are completed.”

See also:

The Straits Times: “Legislation against online falsehoods should not be so broad that it endangers the work of journalists, says SPH
Channel News Asia: “Singapore media suggest fact-checking strategy against fake news
Reuters: “Tech giants express concern over Singapore plan to fight fake news
Reporters Without Borders (RSF): “Singapore’s anti-fake news bill must not tighten gag on dissent


South China Morning Post: “Singapore passes media blackout law that blocks electronic communication after terror attack, raising concerns about crackdown on press

“Singapore’s parliament on Wednesday (21 March 2018) passed a controversial law giving authorities the power to block all electronic communications at the scene of a terror attack, despite protests it will erode media freedom…. The law allows police to stop anyone within the vicinity of what they deem to be a ‘serious incident’, including a terror attack, from taking photos and video or communicating about police operations through text and audio messages.”

See also:

Reuters: “Singapore passes law which can bar pictures of terror attack sites
The Online Citizen (TOC): “Human rights organisations condemn threat against fundamental freedoms in Singapore



Fortify Rights. “Thailand: Uphold Decision to Dismiss Criminal-Defamation Complaint against Thai PBS and Journalists

“Thailand’s Appeal Court should uphold a lower court’s ruling tomorrow (20 March 2018) to dismiss a criminal-defamation complaint against the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) and four Thai journalists, Fortify Rights said today…. Thai mining firm Tungkum Limited filed complaints against Thai PBS and four journalists in November 2015 in response to a news report that included allegations that the company’s open-pit gold mine caused adverse environmental impacts in Loei Province, northeast Thailand.”


The Nation: “Thailand lags ‘because of junta role’ in social media | FORUM ON FAKE NEWS IN SE ASIA HEARS ABOUT CHALLENGES TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

“While many Asian countries have discussed the ‘post-truth’ political phenomenon in the social media era, Thailand appears to be a few steps behind as it struggles with freedom of expression in an undemocratic atmosphere, a symposium heard on Friday (16 March 2018).”


The Nation: “Rangsiman, eight other activists appear before military court over 2016 forum critical of charter draft

“Nine pro-democracy activists on Friday (23 March 2018) went to the military court in Khon Kaen regarding their involvement in a public forum held back in 2016 that was critical of the junta-written charter draft.”

See also:

Bangkok Post: “Activist Rangsiman detained, granted bail” ; “Trial witnesses against Jatupat ‘seem to back him’



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

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