Weekly Media Roundup (31 March – 6 April 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)


Statement. Anti-Fake News Bill: Further Suppression of Free Speech

See also:

Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ). “Malaysia: Proposed ‘fake news’ bill is a threat to freedom of expression



IFEX: “Women march, an eye-roll breaks the Chinese internet, and worrying new legislation


Southeast Asia

Frontier Myanmar: “The press freedom squeeze

“Across Southeast Asia – but especially Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines – journalists are facing arrest, intimidation and violence…For many, the prosecution of the journalists highlights the huge backsliding on press freedom in Myanmar over the past year. Yet this phenomenon is not confined to Myanmar; it stretches right across Southeast Asia, from the arrests of journalists covering the Rakhine crisis to restrictions on media access to Indonesia’s West Papua in the east…. While the issues in West Papua for example are not new, developments in Myanmar, as well as Cambodia, the Philippines and Malaysia, are relatively recent, and represent a worrying trend towards illiberalism and, in some cases, authoritarianism.”


Financial Times: “Why south-east Asia’s politics are proving a problem for Facebook

“In the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar, controversy is now building over Facebook’s outsized role as a forum for news and political discourse in countries where democratic governance has traditionally been weak. With more than 300m monthly users — roughly half the population of south-east Asia — the platform wields enormous influence.”

See also:

Deutsche Welle (DW): “Cambridge Analytica causing trouble for Facebook in Southeast Asia


Philippine Information Agency (PIA). “A region of truth: ASEAN and Japan host media and information literacy forum

“…the event tackles how the youth should cope with the rapidly growing world online—particularly the rise of social media—and how they could protect themselves from its hazards…. Over the next two days, the speakers and the guests, which included members of the youth sector, the academe, and the ASEAN Secretariat, discussed the advantages and ills of advancements in modern technology.”



The Phnom Penh Post: “Hun Sen ‘mulling fake news bill

“A ruling party spokesman on Thursday (5 April 2018) said the Cambodian government is looking to draft a ‘fake news’ law, the same week similar legislation was introduced in Malaysia…. The announcement, made by Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan, followed a meeting between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Siem Reap on the sidelines of Mekong River Commission Summit on Wednesday during which Phuc expressed concerns about so-called fake news coverage.”


Khmer Times. “Spy claim undermines press freedom: RFA

“A spokesman for Radio Free Asia based in Washington on Saturday (31 March 2018) said that claims made by Prime Minister Hun Sen that a former RFA reporter was a spy for the government were ‘ridiculous’ and aimed at further undermining press freedom in the country…. Last month, Mr Hun Sen said RFA journalist Chun Chanboth, deputy-director of RFA’s US-based Khmer service, was his spy.”



Bloomberg: “Facebook Faces Indonesian Police Investigation Over Data Breach

“Indonesia’s Communications Minister Rudiantara has asked the chief of the National Police, Tito Karnavian, to investigate the matter after Facebook revealed Thursday (5 April 2018) that the personal information of more than million Indonesian Facebook users could have been obtained by political consultant Cambridge Analytica. The minister has previously threatened to shut down Facebook over the matter.”



Reuters: “Malaysia outlaws ‘fake news’; sets jail of up to six years

“Malaysia on Monday (2 April 2018) approved a law against ‘fake news’ that would allow for prison of up to six years for offenders, shrugging off critics who say it was aimed at curbing dissent and free speech ahead of a general election.”

See also:

Factbox: Action by Asian governments to crack down on ‘fake news’

The Star Online: “Rights groups, lawyers and journos say it was rushed” ; “Media groups: Journalists now live under threat of Anti-Fake News law

Free Malaysia Today: “Don’t rubber stamp anti-fake news bill, Dewan Negara urged” ; “We are not Germany, say lawyers over Anti-Fake News Bill

The Sun Daily: “Anti-Fake News Bill raises media freedom concerns

Malay Mail Online: “Anti-Fake News Bill constitutional, minister insists

Malaysiakini. “M’sia ignoring UN views on press freedom: RSF” ; “Anti-fake news law – Najib’s shock and awe

CNET: “Malaysia is crushing free speech with a new fake-news law

The Edge Financial Daily: “Anti-Fake News Bill passed

Reuters: “U.S. State Department concerned by Malaysia’s ‘fake news’ bill


The Star Online: “Anwar’s defamation suit against TV3 on Lahad Datu intrusion to be decided on May 14

“The High Court here has fixed May 14 to decide Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s suit against TV3 for linking him to the intrusion of Filipino militants at Lahad Datu…. Justice Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim fixed the date after hearing submissions from both sides on Tuesday (April 3).”



Myanmar Times: “Court to decide on jailed journalists’ plea to dismiss charges next week

“A Yangon court judge said Wednesday (4 April 2018) he would decide next week on the petition of the two jailed journalists from Reuters news agency for the withdrawal of charges against them…. Last week, lawyers for Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, asked the judge to withdraw charges of possession of classified documents against the two journalists on the grounds of insufficient evidence…. Defence lawyer U Than Zaw Aung said all 17 witnesses who have testified in court could not present evidence or facts that would prove the accused are guilty of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.”

See also:

Reuters: “Lawyers for Reuters reporters argue for Myanmar court to dismiss case

TIME: “They’ve Spent Months in Jail for Doing Their Jobs. But These Two Reuters Reporters Are Not Losing Hope


Myanmar Times. “Media freedom declining in Myanmar: experts, journalists

“Journalists and other media professionals face great risks in practicing their profession in conflict areas such as Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states, where media freedom is not respected, according to journalists and experts.”


The Guardian. “Revealed: Facebook hate speech exploded in Myanmar during Rohingya crisis

“Hate speech exploded on Facebook at the start of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar last year, analysis has revealed, with experts blaming the social network for creating ‘chaos’ in the country…. Evidence of the spike emerged after the platform was accused of playing a key role in the spread of hate speech in Myanmar at a time when 650,000 Rohingya refugees were forced to flee to Bangladesh following persecution.”

See also:

The Washington Post: “Myanmar groups say Facebook hasn’t controlled hate speech

The New York Times: “Groups in Myanmar Fire Back at Zuckerberg


Myanmar Times: “News media training schools to be opened

“The Government is planning to open news media training schools to produce quality journalists of international standard, according to Deputy Minister for Information U Aung Hla Tun…. The Ministry of Information is closely cooperating with international and local media organisations, including UNESCO, to train journalists, he said.”



Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Everyday Impunity’: How documentary photographers are telling a secret history

“Photographing extrajudicial murder is nothing new. One of the most famous news photographs ever published is of an extrajudicial killing: Eddie Adams’ unforgettable image of a South Vietnamese general putting a bullet in the head of a captured Viet Cong guerrilla, taken 50 years ago. Many people believe it turned the tide of public opinion in the United States against the Vietnam War…. What is unprecedented is the sheer number of images generated by the death toll in the government’s antidrug campaign. Apart from (Carlo) Gabuco, several other photographers have felt compelled to document the war on drugs and its unintended consequences.”


Rappler.com: “U.P. hosts forum on dangers of perpetuating fake news

“As dummy accounts on social media gain more traction each day, coupled with the curtailment of press freedom, the University of the Philippines Diliman hosted ‘[M]ULAT: A Humanistic Approach to the Philppine Culture of Disinformation,’ a forum on why and how fake news is processed.”


Rappler.com: “PH state media urged to exercise editorial independence

“An educator called on state-owned media organizations in the Philippines to exercise editorial independence and stop serving as propaganda tools for the country’s presidents since the Marcos regime…. University of the Philippines (UP) College of Mass Communication professor Danilo Arao said state media should serve the public, not government officials.”



The Straits Times: “Civil society activists criticise public hearings by Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods

“A group of civil society activists released a signed statement on Monday (April 2) criticising the way a parliamentary committee conducted public hearings over deliberate online falsehoods in recent weeks…Among their concerns were that the hearings did not seem consultative, with committee members appearing uninterested in soliciting witnesses’ views, and that some evidence given during the hearings had been ‘misrepresented’ in summaries put up on the Parliament website.”

See also:

Amnesty International. “Singapore: Freedom of expression undermined in hearings on ‘fake news’



Bangkok Post: “Facing jail, editor apologises for anti-pollution posting

“The editor of Citylife Chiang Mai has apologised to the provincial governor after he threatened her with criminal charges for posting on Facebook a student’s painting of ancient kings wearing pollution masks…. Citylife Chiang Mai magazine had sought to draw attention to the region’s sometimes dangerously unhealthy air pollution caused by crop burning and traffic.”

See also:

Magazine sued for ‘blasphemous’ kings painting

Reuters: “Thai editor faces charges over picture of kings wearing masks


Prachatai English: “Senior journalist forced to resign over junta criticism

“A news director at PPTV was reportedly pressured to resign after repeatedly criticising the deputy junta head over his undeclared luxury watches…. Various media reported late last week that Vanchai Tantivitayapitak, a PPTV news director, resigned after the station received pressure from the National Council for Peace and Orders (NCPO).”



South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Six Vietnam activists on trial for attempting to ‘overthrow the state’ face death penalty

“A court in Hanoi opened trial Thursday (5 April 2018) of six activists accused of attempting to overthrow the government as communist authorities stepped up their crackdown on dissent…. Prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and five others are accused of affiliating with a pro-democracy group called the Brotherhood for Democracy, which prosecutors say works with foreign and domestic organisations to oppose the state, change the political system and eventually overthrow the government…. The six face the death penalty if convicted.”

See also:

The Straits Times: “Vietnam protesters clash with police ahead of activist trial

Reporters Without Borders (RSF): “Six Vietnamese bloggers get exceptionally long jail terms

Human Rights Watch (HRW). “Vietnam: Drop Charges Against Human Rights Defenders



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

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