WEEKLY MEDIA ROUNDUP (20 – 26 January 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): “NBI Subpoenas Rappler CEO, Former Reporter Re Cyber Libel Complaint


General News

Facebook. “Hard Questions: Social Media and Democracy

“Now, we’re as determined as ever to fight the negative influences and ensure that our platform is unquestionably a source for democratic good. There is much to build on in this regard, from the powerful role social media plays in giving people a voice in the democratic process to its ability to deliver information on an unprecedented scale. Our role is to ensure that the good outweighs the forces that can compromise healthy discourse.”


Twitter: “Update on Twitter’s Review of the 2016 U.S. Election

“Twitter is committed to providing a platform that fosters healthy civic discourse and democratic debate.”


Southeast Asia

Reuters: “‘Fake news’ crutch used by SE Asian leaders to control media, critics charge

“Governments across Southeast Asia have a history of using laws and the judiciary to curb press freedoms – now, they have found a handy crutch to lean on as they intensify clampdowns: U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ mantra…. Most worrying to media rights advocates is that several countries are promoting new legislation or expanding existing regulations to make publishing fake news an offense. The fear is that, rather than focusing on false stories published on social media, authoritarian leaders will use the new laws to target legitimate news outlets that are critical of them.”


Bangkok Post. Editorial “Asean media under attack

“A free press is the key test of whether a nation has true freedom of speech. Across the region, every country is failing the test. In communist Vietnam and all the way to the resurgent army controllers in Myanmar, governments are arresting, imprisoning and strongly intimidating the media.”

See also:

INQUIRER.NET. EDITORIAL: “Where did all our freedom go?


Coconuts Jakarta: “Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah reports Indonesian Instagram user to Jakarta Police for alleged defamation

“Indonesia’s controversial Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), which criminalizes online defamation, has often been criticized by those who think it is used as a tool by elites to silence their critics. In an unprecedented case, the law is now being used in a defamation investigation in which the complainant is the leader of a foreign country…. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah, the leader of the small neighboring monarchy nation of Brunei, has reported an Indonesian Instagram user to the Jakarta Metro Police for defamation.”

See also:

The Jakarta Post. “Greater Jakarta: Brunei sultan files defamation report
South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Indonesia investigates ‘defamatory’ insults on Instagram about the Sultan of Brunei


CNBC: “Southeast Asia is hugely at risk of cyberattacks. It’s not investing nearly enough in security, report says

“Member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations need to significantly step up their spending on cybersecurity to tackle digital threats, according to a new report…. Not doing so can potentially cost the top 1,000 companies in the region about $750 billion in market capitalization, and derail digital innovation. Those were some of the findings presented in a report from global consulting firm A.T. Kearney on Tuesday (23 January 2018).”



Reuters: “Cambodia PM berates media at correspondents’ dinner

“Cambodia’s long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen berated journalists on Sunday (21 January 2018) at a dinner his government hosted for correspondents and accused some of spreading fabricated stories.”


The Phnom Penh Post: “Access-to-information law finally ready for enactment

“Cambodia’s long-awaited access-to-information law – one that human rights experts say is critical for combating corruption in Cambodia – is in its final stretches, though observers yesterday (24 January 2018) expressed scepticism that the government would implement the law in the way it’s intended.”



The Jakarta Post. “EDITORIAL: Threat to Indonesian press

“Press watchdogs like RWB (Reporters Without Borders) cite as factors in the state of the press intimidation and abuses journalists face at the hands of either state or non-state actors. The Press Council, however, warns that the most dangerous threat comes from within the press itself.”



Malaysiakini: “Defence fund target met – thank you M’kini supporters!

“Malaysiakini would like to thank the thousands of supporters and readers who have helped raise the RM350,000 it urgently needed for its legal defence fund.”


Bernama: “Govt Not Restricting Freedom Of Speech – Salleh

“The government does not restrict freedom of speech when it comes to criticising the government or differences in opinions, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak.”


Reuters. “Personal details of over 200,000 Malaysian organ donors leaked online: report

“Personal details of over 200,000 Malaysian organ donors and their next of kin have been leaked, with the data available online for over a year, a local tech portal reported on Tuesday (23 January 2018)…. This is the second big data leak reported in Malaysia in three months. In November, Malaysia said it was investigating an alleged attempt to sell personal data of more than 46 million mobile phone subscribers online, in what could be one of the largest leaks of customer data in Asia.”



Reuters: “Police sought Secrets Act probe of Reuters reporters an hour after their arrest

“Myanmar police sought permission from the nation’s president to go ahead with an investigation into whether two Reuters journalists had breached the Official Secrets Act only an hour after arresting them last month, a court heard on Tuesday (23 January 2018).”

See also:

Global Voices: “Reuters Journalists Covering Rohingya Conflict in Myanmar Detained for ‘Illegally Acquiring Information’
ABC News: “Judge delays bail decision on detained Myanmar journalists
TIME: “Myanmar’s Case Against Two Reuters Reporters Is a War on the Truth
Reporters Without Borders (RSF): “Petition for release of two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar


Coconuts Yangon. “No regrets: Journalist Aung Naing Soe reflects on life after prison

“On being a journalist in Myanmar today | The situation is not really good. We journalists are portrayed as public enemies or betrayers of the country. We are just doing our jobs, which we love.”


The Splice Newsroom: “Meet the journalist who started a newsroom in Myanmar to cover Buddhist extremism.

“Min Min and his team at Root Investigative Agency are putting their lives at risk to explain what’s happening in Rakhine state.”


Myanmar Times. “Myanmar backslides on freedom of expression: digital rights stakeholders

“A majority of stakeholders who attended Myanmar’s second digital rights forum believed that the freedom of expression in the country has worsened in 2017 while online privacy has also deteriorated…. Over 150 participants took part in the second digital rights forum in Yangon on January 18 hosted and jointly organised by Phandeeyar together with MIDO, Engage-Media, Free Expression Myanmar and the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), with support from the Swedish government.”

See also:

The Irrawaddy: “In Person | Forum Helps Netizens Fight for their Digital Rights



GMA News: “Manila Times journalist Jomar Canlas gets another death threat

“Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas, who testified in the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in the House of Representatives, turned to the police anew after receiving another death threat…. Canlas went to the Manila Police District (MPD) on Tuesday ( 23 January 2018) to report another text message he received on January 18.”


South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Philippine news website Rappler says 2012 cyber libel claims are ‘political in nature’

“Rights advocates have challenged allegations that Philippines news website Rappler committed cyber libel with a story published in 2012, almost two years before legislation for such online crimes had come into effect…. The complaint came a day before the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission on January 11 cancelled Rappler’s business licence for alleged violations of the country’s foreign media ownership laws – a charge the site denies and has called a ‘concerted effort to turn journalism into a crime’.”

See also:

Rappler.com: “Rappler libel complaint dangerous for media, bloggers – cyber lawyer” ; “What’s the right to be forgotten? Cyber libel complaint vs Rappler sparks discussion
Philippine Daily Inquirer: “NBI finds probable cause to sue Rappler” ; “Defend Rappler and Press Freedom — PH-American Press Club USA” ; “Palace: Gov’t suppressing press freedom is nothing but ‘fake news’” ; “Gascon takes aim at Roque: What world do you live in?
GMA Network. “Fact or Fake: Curious ka ba sa SEC-Rappler issue? (Facts you need to know)
BusinessWorld. Opinion | “Black Friday: Only the beginning
Asia Pacific Report: “UN critics join global outrage over Duterte’s Rappler ‘free press’ attack
Reuters: “Boss of embattled Philippine news site meets investigators over ‘suspicious’ complaint” ; “U.N. experts urge Philippines to preserve free media
Women Writing Women: “Women Writing Women supports the practice of independent and critical journalism.
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF): “Duterte Administration Moves to Kill Free Speech in the Philippines
United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner: “UN experts express serious alarm at effort to shut down independent media outlet in the Philippines


The Philippine Star: “Rappler bumped off from Scarborough shoal patrol coverage

“The defense reporter of online news site Rappler was bumped off from the coverage of the military’s air maritime and territorial patrol over Panatag Shoal yesterday (23 January 2018) amid controversies hounding the media agency.”


Rappler.com: “Vera Files reports cyberattack after publishing story critical of Duterte

“Media organization Vera Files said it was targeted by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack shortly after posting a story critical of President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, January 21…. The news organization published a story which said President Duterte and his daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, did not completely disclose their joint deposits and investments at the Bank of the Philippine Islands when they were mayor and vice mayor of Davao City, respectively.”

See also:

GMA News: “Cyberattack downs VERA Files website after report on Duterte, Sara’s allegedly undeclared millions


Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Maguindanao massacre suspect, ‘overstaying’ Iraqi chemist fall

“A suspect in the still-unresolved Maguindanao massacre that took 58 lives in 2009 had been arrested at a police checkpoint in Sultan Kudarat…. Supt. James Allan Logan, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said joint operatives of the CIDG, the Sultan Kudarat police and the Maguindanao provincial public safety battalion, were manning a checkpoint when Tho Amino, who is facing 56 counts of murder, was arrested while aboard a multicab around 4:50 p.m. on Sunday (21 January 2018).”

See also:

philstar.com: “ARMM police nab suspect in Maguindanao massacre


GMA News. “Roque: Amendment limiting freedom of speech, expression not from Palace

“Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday (20 January 2018) clarified that the proposed constitutional amendment that “limits” freedom of speech and expression did not come from Malacañang”

See also:

Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Editing Bill of Rights not Duterte’s idea, says Roque
ABS-CBN News: “House OKs bill ‘strengthening’ freedom of expression on 2nd reading
Commission on Human Rights (CHR): “Statement of the CHR on the proposal to limit the constitutional right to free speech


ABS-CBN News. “‘You are not the enemy’: Dela Rosa denies monitoring journalists

“The chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, said journalists were not being monitored, rejecting the claim of a police beat reporter.”


Philippine News Agency: “PTFoMS vows to uphold press freedom, media workers’ protection

“The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Wednesday (24 January 2018) vowed anew to uphold press freedom and protect members of the media from various threats.”


Rappler.com: “SC allows columnist to pursue counterclaim vs Enrile in libel case

“The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled to allow the counterclaim of newspaper columnist Yolanda Ong against former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, demanding P88 million in damages for harassment and violation of the right to free speech.”


Town&Country: “Filipina Photojournalist Cheryl Diaz Meyer Sweeps Coveted White House Awards

“Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Cheryl Diaz Meyer was honored by the White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) during ‘The Eyes of History’ contests on January 21.”



The Straits Times. “The Straits Times says | Dealing with cancer of fake news

“The Select Committee set up to look into ways Singapore can tackle online fake news has invited the public to submit its views and suggestions on the matter. This move represents an important opportunity for Singaporeans to make their voices heard on an issue that affects them. At the end of the day, they will be the main victims if fake news destabilises the political system, shakes markets and sparks riots. They will also lose if excessive controls inhibit the growth of legitimate news and fair commentary. Hence the need for a measured approach. Governments are faced with the challenge of striking a balance between public access to information, and ensuring that fake news does not infiltrate a space of communication that is crucial to the proper functioning of State, market and society. The stakes are high.”



Khaosod English: “Nation Multimedia taken over by far-right news corp

“An ultraconservative news agency said Sunday (21 January 2018) that it has acquired the media conglomerate behind Thailand’s No. 2 English-language newspaper to ‘rescue’ it from insolvency…. A week after becoming the new owner of Nation Multimedia Group, Sontiyan Chuenruetainaidhama, founder of conservative outlets T News and INN News, said it had acquired the company to keep it afloat.”



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

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