Weekly Media Roundup (19 – 25 May 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)

Report:

[Regional] Online speech regulation in Mekong dominated by restrictive laws

 

Statement:

[Malaysia] Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ): “Reform laws restricting freedom of expression” 

 

Southeast Asia

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR): “‘A nightmare’: Southeast Asia sees unprecedented attack on press” 

“Save a few exceptions, Southeast Asia has never been known for vibrant journalism. But even with that history as a backdrop, analysts say the last decade has seen an unprecedented rollback of journalistic freedom due to rising authoritarianism and social media’s amplification of hate speech.” 

 

The ASEAN Post: “Southeast Asia’s cybersecurity an emerging concern” 

“Cybercrime is on the rise throughout Southeast Asia, with the region’s rapid development in terms of digital technologies making it a prime target for cybercriminals. This risk is heightened as ASEAN member countries become more integrated via trade, capital flow and connectivity, driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” 

 

Cambodia

AEC News: “Heated Exchanges as New Phnom Penh Post Boss Meets the Press (HD video)” 

“It’s unsurprising that his (Sivakumar S Ganapathy) first meeting with foreign and local journalists in the Cambodia capital Phnom Penh last week saw several heated exchanges amid robust questioning aimed at laying bare his true intentions of reigning in the publication’s ‘editorial independence’. However, despite the best effort of those present none of the accusations levelled at the new Post Media Co. owner came anywhere near hitting the mark.” 

 

The Straits Times: “Second Cambodian man arrested for insulting king on Facebook” 

“Cambodian police have arrested a 70-year-old barber for allegedly insulting the king, the second such case since a controversial lese majeste law was introduced this year…. The detentions have stoked fear that the law may be abused to silence political critics, as it is in neighbouring Thailand.” 

See also: 

The Phnom Penh Post: “Second man charged under country’s lèse majesté law” 

Asia Times: “Monarchy stuck in middle of Cambodia’s conflict” 

Khmer Times: “Ministry warns media about ‘lèse-majesté’” 

 

Indonesia

Jakarta Globe: “20 Years Since Beginning of Reformasi, How Far Have We Come?” 

“Is there such a thing as too much freedom? Rising intolerance, along with the spread of fake news and hate speech seem to suggest the increasing need for more order … Similarly, according to Nursyahbani (Katjasungkana), the developments concerning freedom, including that of the press and expression, have not resulted in a positive contribution toward democratization.” 

See also:

Voice of America (VOA): “20 Years on, Indonesia Considers Legacy of Its ‘Reformation’” 

ABC. “Reformasi: 20 years after the fall of Suharto, activists reflect on Indonesia’s reforms” 

 

Malaysia 

The Straits Times: “Malaysia will abolish anti-fake news law, says new communications minister” 

“Malaysia will abolish its anti-fake news legislation, says newly sworn-in Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo on Monday (May 21)…. In his new role, Mr Gobind, 45, said media freedom was his main agenda and he was committed to upholding it, as spelt out in his coalition Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto, reported Bernama news agency.” 

See also:

The Star Online: “Gobind ready to deliver on promises” 

FRONT DESK: “Legal team to review Anti-Fake News Act – Gobind Singh” 

Channel News Asia. “Malaysia’s Anti-Fake News Act will be repealed as soon as possible: Minister” 

 

Reuters: “Malaysia’s ex-PM Najib rails at police, wife warns of ‘public trial’” 

“Malaysia’s scandal-hit former leader Najib Razak and his wife hit out at the media and police on Saturday (19 May 2018), after investigators seeking evidence of corruption were filmed seizing box loads of jewellery, luxury handbags and cash…. Following a surprise victory in an election on May 9, the new government led by Mahathir Mohamad has opened investigations into how billions of dollars disappeared from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund founded by Najib.” 

 

The Star Online. “Dr M: No need to be so harsh” 

“Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said he disagrees with the action of the police who detained a man who had alle­gedly ‘insulted’ him on Facebook.” 

 

Malaysiakini: “Giat calls on Putrajaya to expedite FOI laws” 

“Pakatan Harapan has been urged to fulfil its promise to enact freedom of information policies to ensure good governance…. The Governance, Integrity, Accountability and Transparency (Giat) coalition said it was willing to collaborate with the government on the implementing of such principles.” 

 

Reuters: “Telling truth to power still no easy task for Malaysia’s revved up media” 

“Wall-to-wall coverage of the fallout from the election since then has given a sense that Malaysia’s media has been unshackled by the arrival of a new coalition that includes pro-democracy activists and has pledged to repeal anti-fake news legislation…. However, uncertainty remains as to whether the mainstream media, conditioned to be cautious because of the diverse religious and ethnic mix in the country, will keep its focus on politics when the election fever dies down.” 

See also: 

The Star Online: “Shafie promises media freedom in Sabah” 

Malaysian Digest: “Press Freedom In Malaysia, What Lies Ahead” 

RFI: “Press freedom opens up in Malaysia, racial diversity stalls in US media” 

 

The Splice Newsroom: “Malaysiakini spent two decades fighting for Malaysia’s democracy. With the opposition in power for the first time since independence, what comes next?” 

“Malaysiakini was born in 1999, in the crucible of the Reformasi movement that sprung up in the wake of the arrest and imprisonment of then-deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim … I spoke to CEO Premesh Chandran to find out more about the Malaysiakini journey — and what comes after this remarkable chapter in its life.” 

See also: 

CFI Media Cooperation. “Malaysiakini: first independent media outlet in Malaysia” 

 

Myanmar 

Reuters: “Myanmar judge allows documents police say came from Reuters reporters’ phones” 

“A Myanmar judge on Tuesday (22 May 2018) allowed the submission of evidence police say they obtained from the mobile phones of two Reuters reporters arrested in December for alleged possession of secret documents, in what has become a landmark press freedom case … After two days of legal argument, Judge Ye Lwin ruled he would accept as evidence printed copies of documents that a police witness said were found on their phones. The documents included alleged confidential government letters and plans for the development of an island off Myanmar’s west coast for tourism.” 

See also: 

Myanmar judge to rule on evidence allegedly taken from Reuters reporters’ phones” ; “PEN America and Asia Society honor Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo” 

Mizzima: “Judge accepts phone evidence in Reuters reporters case” 

Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB): “Imprisoned Reuters duo honoured by US press freedom group” 

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR): “Defending jailed journalists in Myanmar, with no guarantee of due process” 

Asian Correspondent. “‘We have propaganda in our brain’: A conversation on press freedom in Burma” 

 

Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB). “Kachin anti-war activists to appeal defamation suit: lawyer” 

“Two Kachin youth activists facing criminal defamation charges after staging a protest calling for the evacuation to safety of civilians displaced by conflict in Kachin State will appeal to the regional court, seeking to have those charges dropped.” 

See also: 

Radio Free Asia (RFA): “Kachin Activists Charged With Defamation to File Appeal With Regional Supreme Court” 

 

Eleven: “Nationalist Author Maung Thwe Chun filed against defamation law” 

“Concerning talks in Mingin Township, Sagaing Region, Author Maung Thwe Chun whose works comment on national affairs, is being filed against Section 505 (b) and (c) of the defamation law, says MP Kyaw Hsan from No.1 Constituency in Mingin Township…. Ashin Wirathu from Masoe Yein Monstery in Mandalay Region participated in a day-long preaching ceremony held in Kyaungdan Village, organized by the MRTV Sayadaw.” 

 

Philippines

Rappler.com: “Lewd gov’t official verbally harasses reporter” 

“One reporter was verbally harassed by a top government official, following a Senate hearing on an issue that made headlines months ago…. The reporter was newly assigned to cover the government official then, and made formal introductions after the hearing.” 

 

Newsline.ph: “ABS-CBN Davao terminates a dozen employees, talents” 

“Tears and uncertainty  greeted over a dozen of ABS-CBN Davao regular employees and talents Tuesday (22 May 2018), after  they were told, their employment is only good until June 30, 2018…. The television giant cited redundancy and digitalization, as the reasons.” 

See also: 

SunStar Bacolod: “ABS-CBN sacks more than 20 employees in Bacolod station” 

 

Rappler.com: “Facebook suspends account of Pinoy Ako Blog’s Jover Laurio” 

“Jover Laurio’s latest pledge: #IWillNotBeSilent…. The blogger behind the popular Pinoy Ako Blog turned to Twitter after her personal Facebook account was suspended on Thursday, May 24…. She believes trolls triggered the suspension by creating a fake account under her name, then mass reporting her real account as the ‘fake’ one. Facebook then suspended her real account.” 

 

Nieman Reports: “In the Philippines, Journalists Confront Fake News and a Crackdown on Press Freedom” 

“Despite the obstacles in an increasingly hostile environment, independent Filipino news outlets are doing vital work … (Philippine President Rodrigo) Duterte does not regard press freedom as a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Press freedom ‘is a privilege in a democratic state,’ he said in an interview with reporters in January. ‘You have overused and abused that privilege in the guise of press freedom.'” 

 

International Press Institute (IPI): “Philippine news site Rappler recognized as 2018 Free Media Pioneer” 

“The Philippines-based news website Rappler is the recipient of the 2018 Free Media Pioneer award in recognition of the site’s innovative approach to journalism and audience engagement as well as its determination to hold authorities accountable despite aggressive attacks on its operations.” 

See also:

International Center for Journalists (ICFJ): “Digital News Trailblazers from the Philippines and Venezuela to Receive Top International Journalism Award” 

 

Thailand

Bangkok Post: “Media cries foul over new ID armbands” 

“Media activists and academics voiced concerns Tuesday over new armbands distributed to reporters covering political gatherings, saying they violate the media’s freedom of expression. Prachyachai Daththuyawatra, the spokesman of the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), that along with the armbands, preventing the media from compiling news of protests was also viewed as a media rights abuse.” 

 

Fortify Rights. “Thailand: Dismiss Criminal-Defamation Charges Against Thai PBS and Journalists” 

“Thai authorities and gold mining company Tungkum Limited should immediately drop criminal-defamation charges against the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) and four Thai journalists, Fortify Rights said today (21 May 2018). The Criminal Court in Bangkok is set to reopen the case against the media outlet and journalists after the Appeal Court decided on March 20, 2018 to overturn an earlier decision to dismiss the case.” 

 

The Nation. “SPECIAL REPORT: Media freedom takes beating under junta” 

“Though there are no longer military personnel posted at media outlets, unlike during the period following the military coup on May 22, 2014, a tight grip on media has been maintained more surreptitiously via junta laws and orders…. Journalists and media groups have complained about restrictions on press freedom under the junta, which has been in power for four years. Media groups contend that freedom has been curbed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) through its orders and announcements.” 

See also: 

Asia Times: “Four years on, press freedom in Thailand a casualty of military coup” 

 

The Straits Times: “Thai politicians charged as dissent grows before coup anniversary” 

“Three politicians from the party ousted by Thailand’s generals were charged on Monday (May 21) with sedition for holding a press conference, as dissent grows before the fourth anniversary of the junta’s 2014 coup.” 

 

Vietnam

The Daily Signal: “To Vietnam, Freedom of Expression Is a ‘National Security Offense’” 

“The Vietnamese government’s response to condemnations of its human rights record has been intensified suppression of people’s freedom to silence their growing voices.”

 

NOTE

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

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

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