Weekly Media Roundup (22 December 2018 – 2 January 2019)

Here are some of the press freedom and free expression-related events and issues you might have missed:

Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)


SEAPA Secretariat: A Clarion to Call to Action: Protect Press Freedom


In the year just past, a host of challenges hounded the press across the region amid the rise of authoritarian regimes that bristled at the slightest sign of dissent, and an information (dis)order, AKA ‘fake news’, that fanned the flames of polarization and ethno-nationalism, and amplified hate speech and all manner of discord and intolerance, resulting in deeply divided societies.

Fellowship stories


Other updates

General news

IFEX: 2018: A dark year for press freedom


Around the world press freedom faced a litany of attacks in 2018, as political leaders unwilling to accept scrutiny increasingly jail, prosecute or undermine the credibility of critical journalists. As many as 78 journalists were killed in 2018, according to the International Press Institute (IPI)’s Death Watch, as scores of murders in previous years remain mired in impunity.

Southeast Asia


Cambodian Center for Human Rights: End Criminalisation of Unionists

“95 civil society groups, including CCHR, strongly condemn the conviction of six prominent independent trade union leaders by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on December 11, 2018” – @cchrcambodia, twitter


Radio Free Asia: Cambodia’s PM Hun Sen Should Face Graft Probe Over Payments to Pro-Ruling Party Media: Observers


Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit is obligated to investigate Prime Minister Hun Sen to ensure payments he made to reporters at privately owned, pro-government news outlets weren’t taken from the national budget, observers said Thursday. In an audio recording of a phone call that went viral after it was leaked on social media last week, Hun Sen told CNC TV general director Ouk Bora that “my wife and I support all the staff” at the station, regularly providing them money “during special events.”


The Phnom Penh Post: ‘PM is within his rights to intervene in internal affairs of companies’


A senior Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) official said Prime Minister Hun Sen has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of companies after an audio recording emerged this week in which he is heard ordering the removal of CNC TV’s CEO. Hun Sen faced criticism after Radio Free Asia on Friday broadcast a leaked 15-minute audio recording of the prime minister ordering CNC TV owner Kith Meng to remove company CEO Ouk Vora from his position.


The Phnom Penh Post: PM calls for end to ‘fake news’


Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on local and international journalists to join hands in tackling fake news, which he said could cause social turmoil in the Kingdom and beyond. He made the appeal in a letter sent to the Editor Forum of Cambodia, a gathering organised by the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) in the capital on Friday. The prime minister said fake news could impact national security, political stability and relations with neighbouring countries, adding that it has been used by opposition politicians and opportunists to “pollute the social environment” in a bid to overthrow Cambodia’s government.


Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI-Indonensia): Final Note 2018: Journalists Shadowed by Persecution and Physical Violence (Bahasa Indonesia).


The year 2018 records a number of important events along with the commencement of the political competition ahead of the upcoming Presidential Election, Regional and National Legislature on 17 April 2019. Many developments have taken place in the field of journalism and the media, although the overall situation has not been entirely encouraging in the matter of the situation of press freedom and the professionalism of journalists and media in Indonesia.


Radio Free Asia: Myanmar Press Council Demands Military Provide Contacts For Journalists Covering Conflict

The Myanmar Press Council on Friday called on the nation’s often secretive military to explain a recent clash with an ethnic armed group in war-torn Shan state, following accusations that several media outlets had published false reports about Christmas Day fighting in Kutkai township. The MPC issued a statement demanding that the military release the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of spokespersons after the armed forces warned news media on Thursday that it would take legal action against them if they published reports about its operations without first confirming information with military officials.


The Phnom Penh Post: Myanmar Reuters journos appeal jail sentence

LAWYERS lodged an appeal on Monday to free two Reuters journalists jailed for their reporting on Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis, decrying the sentence as a “mistake” that has already resulted in the pair being locked up for a year. Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested in December last year and later sentenced to seven-year prison terms for what prosecutors said was a breach of official secrets law for the possession of classified material on security operations.

See also, Myanmar court hears arguments in appeal case of jailed Reuters reporters


Burma News International (BNI) – Mizzima: Tatmadaw calls on media to issue news on fighting only after verification


The Tatmadaw (government defence services) has issued a statement calling on news media to only report on battle news in fighting with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) after verifying the clashes with the Tatmadaw. The statement issued by Tatmadaw says, “It needs to report true news regarding with Tatmadaw only after verifying them with Security and Border Affairs ministers concerned and Staff Officer Colonels in respective regional commands.” Tatmadaw True News Information Committee issued this statement on December 27 saying RFA, The Voice, Messenger News Journal, The Ladies, Mizzima, Irrawaddy, Khithit Media, VOA, The Fifth Wave News and The Ladies reported the battle news by citing and quoting only the statements issued by EAOs without verifying the news with the Tatmadaw.


GMA News Online: NUJP slams ‘CPP legal front’ tag, ‘takedown’ of alternative media sites


The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Wednesday denounced a publicized claim that it was a “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). One Mario Ludades, purportedly of the “No to Communist Terrorist Group Coalition,” counted the NUJP among the alleged “legal fronts” of communist rebels on Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of the CPP. Other groups Ludades mentioned were the League of Filipino Students, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, and the Students Christian Movement of the Philippines.

See also, NUJP public statement denouncing ‘CPP legal front’ tag, news website takedowns.


GMA News Online: Man caught with explosives in front of GMA arrested


A man was arrested after he was caught with explosives in front of the GMA Annex Building at noon on Tuesday, Christmas Day. According to MJ Chan, a security officer assigned at GMA Network, he was found carrying five Molotov bombs and was even able to set one off in front of the building before security personnel Viomar Granada subdued him.

See also, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility’s alert: Man with Explosives Apprehended Near GMA Network


National Union of Journalists of the Philippines: Radio announcer killed in Negros Oriental


A radio announcer was murdered in the town of La Libertad, Negros Oriental early Friday morning, December 28, police and his radio station said. Gabriel “Kumander Aguila” Alburo, 50, was heading home to Guihulngan City on his motorcycle from a cock derby when he was shot by two men on another motorcycle on the national highway in Barangay North Poblacion around 3:05 a.m.


Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility: Alternative News Sites Down in Cyber-attack


Three alternative media websites have been inaccessible since 26 December 2018 after they posted stories on the 50th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). As of press time, the home pages of Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly said the sites are “temporarily unavailable” and “forbidden,” respectively. A Pilipino Star Ngayon report said the website of the video production group Kodao, which was down in the early hours of December 26, was back online in the evening. But the website was again inaccessible as of December 28, its homepage saying “the account has been suspended.”


National Union of Journalists of the Philippines: Yearender: Let us unite to defeat the growing threats to press freedom


2018 proved to be one of the most challenging for independent Philippine media. Yet it has also been a year of affirmation. This year, the already tense relations between the media and President Rodrigo Duterte took a decided turn for the worse with the January decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission to revoke the license of online news outfit Rappler, one of the three media companies he had singled out for vicious verbal attacks and threats, for allegedly violating the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of mass media as well as the Anti-Dummy Law.


Thai Journalist Association (TJA): 2018 marked by a slew of challenges for media amid raft of controversial draft laws


The media situation in 2018 is marked by “interference and slowdown” and the sector has a number of challenges to overcome. Freedom of expression remains threatened by the National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO) special laws and the media businesses are falling on hard times thanks to disruption from technological advancement and consumers’ shift to the digital media. The media situation in Thailand can be summed up as four points.


Bangkok Post: Viral clicks that rocked the boat


In the year 2018, netizens widely used their Facebook pages and other social media platforms to scrutinise matters of public interest ranging from politics and crimes to social issues.


The Jakarta Post: Vietnam’s draconian cybersecurity bill comes into effect

A law requiring internet companies in Vietnam to remove content communist authorities deem to be against the state came into effect Tuesday, in a move critics called “a totalitarian model of information control”.  The new cybersecurity law has received sharp criticism from the US, the EU and internet freedom advocates who say it mimics China’s repressive censorship of the internet.


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

All information and materials in this roundup are provided in good faith. Except for the information produced by SEAPA, we are not responsible for the contents or reliability of linked websites and do not necessarily endorse the views expressed within them. We have no control over the availability of the linked websites.

Hazwany Jamaluddin

Program Assistant at Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

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