WEEKLY MEDIA ROUNDUP (27 January – 2 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)


Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM): Joint Media Release: CSOs call for charges against NGO leaders to be dropped and for an end to ongoing harassment of civil society



Burma News International (BNI): “INVITATION AND CALL FOR PAPERS | The 6th Ethnic Media Conference (EMC 2018)



Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR): “InterAksyon Shutting Down; CNN Philippines Downsizing



IFEX: “Asia-Pacific welcomes the new year – with declining freedom, rights, and democracy


General news

The Economist Intelligence Unit: “Democracy Index 2017

“In recognition of the importance of defending freedom of expression for all, this year we have produced a Media Freedom Index and ranking for the 167 countries covered by the Democracy Index. The Media Freedom Index is compiled on a scale of 0-10 based on five indicators from the civil liberties category of the Democracy Index. Scores of 9 and 10 denote that a country’s media (including print, broadcast and social media) are fully free; scores of 7 and 8 indicate that they are partly free; scores of 5 and 6 mean that the media are largely unfree; and scores of 0 to 4 signify that the media are unfree.”


Southeast Asia

CNN: “Asia’s strongmen follow Trump’s lead on fake news

“Analysts and observers say Asia’s strongman leaders have been emboldened by the lack of criticism of their heavy-handed tactics from Washington and the administration of President Donald Trump, himself a fierce and persistent critic of the press.”

See also:

Philippine News Agency (PNA): “ASEAN journos join hands to fight ‘fake news’



Voice of America (VOA Khmer): “Families of Two Jailed Journalists Appeal for their Release

“More than two months after their arrest for alleged espionage, the families of two former Radio Free Asia reporters, Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin, are appealing for their release…. Vann Chantha, the wife of Yeang Sothearin, told VOA Khmer recently that it was an injustice that her husband was arrested and charged with espionage.”


The Phnom Penh Post. “Updated: Lèse majesté law among changes to Cambodia’s Constitution and Penal Code

“The Council of Ministers ratified a group of contentious amendments to the Constitution and Penal Code on Friday (2 February 2018), including restrictions on freedom of association and a ban on insulting the King, despite a growing chorus of concern that the laws could be abused to stifle dissent…. The proposed amendments come against the backdrop of an ongoing crackdown on critical voices that has not only seen the country’s main opposition party forcibly dissolved, but multiple independent media outlets shuttered and individuals targeted for anti-government speech on social media.”

See also:

Lèse majesté law in works for Cambodia
Voice of America (VOA Khmer): “Cambodia Gov’t Approves New Lèse-Majesté Rules
South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Cambodia criminalises criticism of king with lèse-majesté law, sparking fears of Hun Sen’s worsening crackdown on dissent
Reuters: “Cambodian government criminalizes insult of monarchy


The Phnom Penh Post: “Draft of long-awaited access-to-information law unveiled

“A proposed access-to-information law more than a decade in the making was unveiled to the public yesterday (31 January 2018), with just one item left to finalise – punishments for officials who refuse to disclose public information…. The Ministry of Information and Unesco led the drafting of the law, which enshrines the public’s right to access information held by Cambodia’s public institutions.”

See also:

Khmer Times: “Information law edges closer



The Jakarta Post: “Poso court sets precedent with defamation case ruling for activist

“Amid widespread reports of legal persecution under the draconian Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, a district court in Poso, Central Sulawesi, has set a precedent by ruling in favor of the defendant in a highly publicized defamation case…. The case concerned a libel suit that Tojo Una Una Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Bagus Setiyono had brought against anti-corruption activist Mohammad Aksa Patundu over a Facebook post.”


The Jakarta Post: “‘Post’ welcomes new chief editor

“In a changing of the guard, Nezar Patria, 47, will become the chief editor of The Jakarta Post on Feb. 1, replacing Endy Bayuni, who served in the position on an interim basis since 2016.”



Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER): “Uphold the Right to Dissent | Halt the Attacks Against Maryam Lee & #UndiRosak!

“Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) strongly abhors the slew of vile attacks against activist and writer, Maryam Lee, following her public expression on #UndiRosak. Instead of demonstrating maturity when engaging in the discourse, many supporters of the opposition resorted to unwarranted sexist, misogynist and extremist harassment against Maryam, and targeted their attacks solely at body shaming and her identity as a young woman.”


The Malaysian Insight. Editorial: “The government’s version of ‘freedom of speech’

“Within a short space of few days, two ministers issued public statements that give an impression that the federal government is promoting and protecting freedom of expression and differences of opinions in Malaysia…. But when the thin surface is scratched, we find signs that are disturbing to say the least…. This is because the reality on the ground in general does not match with the assurance espoused by both Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz and Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak.”


Free Malaysia Today (FMT): “Censor board bans controversial Hindi film Padmaavat

“Malaysia’s film censorship authority has banned ‘Padmaavat’, a controversial Hindi movie that features the relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler in medieval India…. The Film Censorship Board (LPF) placed the movie in its ‘not approved list’ yesterday (27 January 2018), with a ‘not relevant’ remark placed on its age rating section.”

See also:

Hindi film on Hindu-Muslim love affair too sensitive, say censors


Malay Mail Online: “‘Fake news’: Once bitten, twice shy

“Malaysian victims of ‘fake news’ and hoaxes have come out in support of the government’s move to consider laws against the menace, agreeing that the phenomenon must be curbed…. Left unchecked, some expressed concern that the spread of ‘fake news’ could leave Malaysians unable to trust information shared online, saying this was already beginning to manifest.”


The Straits Times: “Malaysia tops in South-east Asia for online child pornography

“Malaysia has the highest number of IP addresses which upload and download photographs and visuals of child pornography in South-east Asia, the authorities have said…. The number of children falling prey to perpetrators who they befriend online is also reportedly increasing fast.”

See also:

Malaysiakini. “Child porn: M’sia ranks top in Southeast Asia



Reuters: “Reuters reporters arrested under Myanmar Secrets Act denied bail

“A court in Myanmar declined to grant bail on Thursday (1 February 2018) for two Reuters journalists accused of violating the country’s Official Secrets Act, although their defense lawyer said information in documents at the center of the case was publicly available.”

See also:

Myanmar advisory panel chief says it cannot interfere in court case against reporters” ; “U.N. calls for release of Reuters journalists in Myanmar
Myanmar Times: “Judge refuses bail for two journalists
Voice of America (VOA): “Jailed Reuters Journalists Denied Bail in Myanmar
Al Jazeera: “Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar denied bail
PEN America: “Bail Denied as Myanmar Authorities Begin Case Against Detained Reuters Journalists


Global Risk Insights: “Myanmar’s continued media crackdown

“A free press is important to help Myanmar’s embryonic democracy develop both economically and politically. Yet, an increasing number of observers, critics and former supporters, acknowledge that Suu Kyi has not made an effort to influence policymaking or steer the debate towards improvements in media freedoms.”

See also:

Asia Media International. “Myanmar: The future of the freedom of press


Global Voices: “Since 2016, Myanmar Courts Have Convicted 100% of People Charged Under Telecom Law 66 (d)

“New research by Free Expression Myanmar (FEM), a local NGO, shows that the use of Section 66 (d) has produced a 100 percent conviction rate and that penalties issued under the law have disproportionately harsh. “Every court has given a prison sentence and none has given a fine,” the group stated in the report titled ’66 D: No Real Change’.”


The Irrawaddy: “Rakhine Politician, Author Charged with Defamation, Unlawful Association

“Prominent Arakanese politician U Aye Maung and author Wai Han Aung were charged with defamation and unlawful association during their appearance at the Rathedaung Township court in Rakhine State on Monday (29 January 2018), according to the author’s defense lawyer…. The two were arrested two weeks ago in Sittwe, the state capital, for remarks at a public lecture expressing support for the ethnic armed group the Arakan Army in Rathedaung earlier this month. Authorities had scheduled their first hearing for Jan. 31 but moved it up by two days.”


Global Voices: “A Victim of Police Brutality in Myanmar Seeks Justice While Confronting Racist Comments on Social Media

“A Myanmar man is facing a backlash online and in the justice system, after reporting that he was arrested arbitrarily by the police…. On his Facebook account, the young man described how a group of men in civilian clothes — who claimed to be police officers — attempted to arrest him while he was on the street using his phone at night of January 18.”



Rappler.com: “Rappler takes SEC case to the Court of Appeals

“Rappler’s petition for review cites procedural and substantive processes which were violated, and points out how Rappler’s PDRs were singled out…Rappler Inc and Rappler Holdings Corporation filed on Monday, January 29, a petition for review questioning the revocation of their certificates of incorporation before the Court of Appeals (CA).”

See also:

SEC order meant to silence us, muzzle free expression – Rappler” ; “TIMELINE: The case of Rappler’s SEC registration” ; “‘That’s a crime’: Duterte hit for blackmailing media” ; “[OPINION] The darkest hour
InterAksyon: “Radio Veritas on government’s ‘curtailing of free speech and press freedom’
Al Jazeera. “Duterte vs Rappler: Media on notice in the Philippines
Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Radio Veritas slams curbs on press freedom” ; Opinion: “Rappler should stop misleading everyone
CNN Philippines. “National Press Club: We’re not puppets of the Palace
CIVICUS: “Attempt to shut down Rappler news site part of efforts to muzzle free expression


Rappler.com: “Rappler answers cyber libel complaint at NBI

“Rappler on Thursday, February 1, submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) its counter-affidavit against the cyber libel complaint of businessman Wilfredo Keng…. Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr filed their answers to the complaint through their counsel…. Both counter-affidavits argued that there was no crime of cyber libel because the report that is subject of the complaint was published in May 2012 or 4 months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act was enacted in September 2012. All criminal laws are not retroactive.”

See also:

Reuters: “Philippine news site chief says complaint of cyber libel is ‘baseless’


GMA News: “Libel complaint against GMA exec and host Winnie Monsod dropped

“The Provincial Prosecution Office of Rizal has dismissed the libel complaint filed by Glasgow Credit and Collection Service Corporation against GMA Network Senior Vice President for News and Public Affairs Marissa Flores, Segment Producer Chad Dionisio, and program host  Winnie Monsod for lack of probable cause…. Glasgow accused Monsod, Flores, Dionisio, Atty. Lalaine Monserate of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and financial adviser Francisco Colayco of committing libel after Glasgow’s credit affairs were discussed in GMA News TV’s program  Bawal ang Pasaway Kay Mareng Winnie.”


GMA News: “Pacquiao wants bloggers licensed, media ‘controlled’

“Senator Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday (30 January 2018) said bloggers should not hide behind anonymity and instead be required by the government to acquire licenses…Pacquiao also asked resource persons from the media and academe whether media should be ‘controlled.'”

See also:

Rappler.com: “Pacquiao wants gov’t to license bloggers, ‘control’ media
Philippine News Agency (PNA). “Bloggers are not above libel laws: Poe


philstar.com: “Roque hits media coverage of his Benham Rise remarks

“Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Sunday (28 January 2018) cried foul over news reports from various media outlets about his remarks, which sparked outrage from international law experts and scientists, regarding Chinese research in Benham Rise…. In a press briefing on the sidelines of Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo, Roque denied saying that Filipinos do not have the financial means to carry out research in the continental shelf off the eastern seaboard of Luzon.”


The Philippine Star: “Ex-Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes surrenders after Sandigan orders arrest

“Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes yesterday (29 January 2018) surrendered before the Sandiganbayan, a few hours after the anti-graft court released a ruling ordering his arrest and revocation of the bail bond he had earlier posted.”


InterAksyon: “International jurists concerned by proposed tweak to Charter’s free expression provision

“A global organization of judges and lawyers has warned the House of Representatives against adopting a proposed amendment to the Constitutional provision covering freedom of expression and the press, saying this ‘would bring the Philippines into breach of its international human rights obligations.'”


Rappler.com. “WATCH: ‘Fake news’ and the dilemma it has created

“UP (University of the Philippines) professor Clarissa David explains the spread of disinformation and misinformation on social media, its impact online and offline, and the steps we can take to address it”

See also:

Spread of fake news meant to silence, intimidate critics – Maria Ressa” ; “Duterte is no. 1 source of fake news – veteran journalist” ; “If there’s no fake news, we wouldn’t know what’s true – Roque
ABS-CBN News. “Andanar: Hate posts can be fake news” ; “NBI: Blogger Cocoy Dayao behind ProPinoy.net
Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Rappler links Duterte 2016 campaign to certain fake news” ; “Senate panel to summon blogger, Facebook, Google over ‘fake news’
CNN Philippines: “Senators condemn PCOO officials for spread of misinformation” ; “Palace: Declaring fake news ‘illegal’ is unconstitutional
Reuters: “Spread of fake news aims to silence dissent, says chief of embattled Philippine site


GMA News: “EO on FOI ‘has no teeth, doesn’t work’ —Poe

“President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order (EO) providing the implementation of freedom of information (FOI) in the executive branch ‘has no teeth’ and ‘doesn’t really work,’ Senator Grace Poe said Tuesday (30 January 2018).”


CNN Philippines. “Experts: A free press has obligations to society

“Although all the experts advocate for a free press, they said this freedom has obligations.”


INQUIRER.net: “KUWENTO (Story) | Women journalists standing up to bullies is a Filipino tradition

“The incident also highlights a tradition in Philippine journalism: women reporters, writers and editors standing up to thugs and tyrants…. Before (Rappler reporter Pia) Ranada’s poised and courageous performance in the face of yet another (President Rodrigo) Duterte tantrum, there have been many other Filipino women journalists who didn’t back down and who bravely faced off with bullies and demagogues.”


Rappler.com: “Does the Campus Journalism Act protect press freedom?

“Though the law made it the government’s duty to protect the freedom of student journalists, press freedom advocates argue that the CJA (Campus Journalism Act) has flaws that compromise press freedom such as the lack of stable funding and lack of material provisions on editorial independence.”



The Straits Times: “Former owner of The Online Citizen returns $5,000 in advertising funds to British firm

“An Internet content provider that used to manage socio-political website The Online Citizen has complied with an order to return $5,000 in advertising revenue to a firm based in the United Kingdom…. On Monday (Jan 29), the content provider – The Opinion Collaborative (TOC Ltd) – said its appeal against the order by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) had been unsuccessful.”



The Nation: “TJA panel finds ‘close relationship, trust’ led to ‘misunderstanding’ in case of alleged sexual harassment at media org

“A close relationship and trust in the workplace were the key factors that had led to ‘misunderstanding’ and a ‘sexual harassment-prone situation’, the Thai Journalists Association has concluded in regard to a case of alleged sexual harassment at a media organisation…. The TJA released its fact-finding results in the case on Monday (29 January 2018) , without naming anyone involved or pinpointing whether the alleged act had actually taken place.”

See also:

Khaosod English: “Media guild sexual harassment verdict criticized
Bangkok Post. Editorial: “TJA falls down on job


Bangkok Post: “Activist Chanoknan flees lese majeste summons

“Pro-democracy activist Chanoknan ‘Cartoon’ Ruamsap fled into exile on Sunday (28 January 2018), ahead of arrest by military order for sharing on her Facebook account a BBC profile of His Majesty the King…. She is the second person charged with the same offence, out of more than 3,000 Facebook users who also shared the article. The first Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa is imprisoned in Khon Kaen.”

See also:

The Nation: “Anti-coup activist Chanoknan flees country to avoid lese majeste trial
Khaosod English: “No turning back for latest lese majeste fugitive
Reuters: “Thai activist flees royal insult charge for posting BBC article


Bangkok Post: “Pro-poll protesters charged with sedition

“Seven anti-coup demonstrators face charges of sedition in relation for their weekend gathering at Pathumwan intersection that demanded an election be held this year, police said Tuesday (30 January 2018)…. Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said the National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO) representatives, whom he refused to identify, had lodged a complaint with Pathumwan police against seven alleged leaders of the demonstration.”

See also:

Khaosod English: “Junta orders pro-democracy leaders charged with inciting rebellion” ; “39 activists charged for protesting ‘near Palace’
The Washington Post: “Thai junta files charges against democracy activists
Reuters: “Thailand charges eight activists as public frustration at junta grows



The Straits Times: “Vietnam jails 3 activists over ‘anti-state’ videos

“Three Vietnamese activists were sentenced to between six and eight years in jail on Wednesday (Jan 31) for ‘anti-state propaganda’ after posting online videos criticising the communist regime, which is accused of tightening its grip on dissidents…Vu Quang Thuan and Nguyen Van Dien were convicted on Wednesday for posting 17 videos online that were critical of the government, their lawyer Le Luan told AFP.”

See also:

Radio Free Asia (RFA): “Vietnam Jails Three Democracy Advocates Over Online Postings



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

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