Weekly Media Roundup (7 – 13 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)

Forum: 4MAsia Forum: Independent media in Southeast Asia, what’s next?


Southeast Asia

The Interpreter: “Amal Clooney no match for Trump and China in Southeast Asia press clampdown

“Across Southeast Asia, news organisations are struggling with tightened government regulations and new laws, some of which are specifically aimed at ‘fake news’. Individual journalists and bloggers have found themselves labelled effectively ‘enemies of the state’. News outlets are increasingly censored through website blocking, arrests, cyber attacks, and other violations, and public broadcasters are also easy targets because they rely upon governments for financial support.”


Southeast Asia Globe: “US media database a threat to Southeast Asia press freedom warns Reporters Without Borders

“A Reporters Without Borders (RSF) spokesperson has described plans by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to compile a database on media outlets and individual journalists as ‘very worrying for press freedom in Southeast Asia’…. ‘Not only is the wording dangerously vague and sounds like East German Stasi-style jargon, but it would create a precedent that could serve as an inspiration and a model for many Southeast Asian governments who want to muzzle press freedom,’ said Daniel Bastard, the Asia-Pacific director at RSF.”


Voice of America (VOA): “Heavy Facebook Use Exposed Southeast Asia to Breaches of Personal Data

“Data from about 87 million users worldwide may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook says…. Southeast Asia faced exposure because a rise in the number of ‘affordable’ mobile phones has expanded consumption of news on social media, said Athina Karatzogianni, associate professor in media, communication and sociology at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom…. Total smartphone shipments in emerging Southeast Asia came to about 100 million last year, according to the market research firm IDC.”


Joint Statement of Civil Society Organisations to the ‘AICHR High Level Dialogue on Managing Freedom of Expression in the Information Age’

“The stance taken by ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Governments so far, represented by the manifestation of laws in the ASEAN region, show the contrary, that is the efforts of the Governments to manage content by curbing dissenting opinions and criticisms. Managing freedom of expression should be aimed at providing an enabling environment for people to exercise their fundamental freedoms and liberties, which includes providing constructive criticisms as an essential part of democracy.”



Khmer Times: “RFA reporters trading spy accusations

“A former journalist who worked with Radio Free Asia has denied that he was a spy for the United States as accused by his former colleague…. Sok Ratha, a former RFA reporter under the name of Ratha Visal, denied on Friday (6 April 2018) that he was a US spy as accused by Chun Chanboth, deputy director of RFA’s US-based Khmer Service.”


Deutsche Welle (DW): “Cambodia considers new law targeting ‘fake news’

“The proposal has stoked fears of censorship in Cambodia, where curbs to press freedom have increased in recent years. Many believe the new law could target those critical of the government.”

See also:

Brinkwire: “Cambodia considers new law targeting ‘fake news’



Reuters: “Islamic groups report Indonesian politician for reciting ‘blasphemous’ poem

“Hardline Islamic groups on Wednesday (4 April 2018) filed a blasphemy complaint against a daughter of Indonesia’s first president, accusing her of reciting a poem insulting Islam and prompting fresh concerns over intolerance in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country…. Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, a politician, is the third daughter of Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno and the younger sister of Megawati Sukarnoputri, who leads President Joko Widodo’s ruling party.”



The Straits Times: “Controversial fake-news law comes into force in Malaysia

“The Bill was fast-tracked in Parliament by the government last week, despite criticism from opposition parties and political activists, who feared that it would be used to muzzle opinions the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition disagreed with…. There are also concerns that BN will use the law to stop criticism of it as the country prepares for a general election.”

See also:

New Straits Times: “Anti-Fake News Bill is now law (NSTTV)

The Sun Daily. “Journalists should be front line in countering fake news: Bernama rep

International Press Institute (IPI): “‘Fake news’ law threatens Malaysian media


Malay Mail Online: “On journalists’ day launch, Najib slams press freedom record of ‘previous leader’

“Datuk Seri Najib Razak has today criticised a ‘previous leader’ of the country for his track record in press freedom, while launching the inaugural National Journalists’ Day…. Najib, now a caretaker prime minister after Parliament’s dissolution on Saturday, said the federal government under his previous administration had instead facilitated press freedom.”

See also:

malaysiandigest.com: “Najib Promises Media Freedom, Unlike The ’22-Year Leader’ Labelled As Enemy Of The Press

Borneo Post Online: “Declaration of National Journalists’ Day 2017/2018


Malaysiakini: “Bernama GM asks people to trust mainstream media

“The people must have trust in the mainstream media as their source of information, said Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) general manager Zulkefli Salleh…. He said the people should not completely believe the ‘news’ disseminated on social media but should evaluate the validity of the information.”


Malay Mail Online: “National media council could serve as regulatory body, journalist says

“The proposed Malaysia Media Council which is still at the discussion stage could serve as keeper in the professional integrity of media practitioners, according to a veteran journalist…. Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar said the council could among others ensure that the social function of the media is accorded attention, have its own media accountability system and monitor fake news from the perspective of journalists.”

See also:

The Sun Daily: “Time is right for media council



Reuters: “Myanmar judge rejects request for dismissal of case against two jailed Reuters reporters

“A judge on Wednesday (11 April 2018) rejected a request for dismissal of a case against two Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar after being accused of possessing secret government papers…. A court in Yangon has been holding preliminary hearings since January to decide whether Wa Lone, who turned 32 on Wednesday, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, will be charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.”

See also:

Asian Correspondent. “Burma: UN, Britain call for immediate release of Reuters journalists

Al Jazeera: “Myanmar court refuses to free Reuters journalists

The New York Times: “They Documented a Massacre. Their Prize Is a Prison Cell in Myanmar.” ; “Reuters Journalists Will Face Trial for Work in Myanmar

UCAN News: “Press under siege in Myanmar as media freedom wanes

Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “Myanmar: RSF condemns illogical refusal to free Reuters reporters

PEN America: “Myanmar judge’s decision to continue prosecution of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo a miscarriage of justice

Amnesty International. “Myanmar: Case against Reuters journalists upheld as media restrictions intensify


Reuters: “Facebook’s Zuckerberg vows to work harder to block hate speech in Myanmar

“Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday (10 April 2018) his company would step up efforts to block hate messages in Myanmar as he faced questioning by the U.S. Congress about electoral interference and hate speech on the platform.”


Myanmar Times: “Press council plans elections in 2018

“The Myanmar Press Council (MPC) would announce in July the nominees for the position of council members, and the media adjudication body will select the members of its election commission at the end of April, MPC officials told The Myanmar Times…. The MPC, an independent media body comprised of privately-owned media representatives that conducts investigations and settles media-related disputes in line with the provisions of media law, is to hold its elections in October.”



South China Morning Post: “Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix dined with two of Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign advisers in 2015

“(Alexander) Nix and his companies have come under fire for using data harvested from Facebook, which recently revealed that some 1.2 million Filipinos on Facebook were affected by the data breach.”

See also:

Philippine Daily Inquirer: “PH firm Istratehiya denies ever working with Cambridge Analytica


Rappler.com: “Facebook partners with Rappler for fact-checking program

“Rappler, together with Vera Files, has been certified through a non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network and will review news stories on Facebook, check their facts, and rate their accuracy.”

See also:

VERA Files: “VERA Files joins Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program in PH



The Straits Times. “Primer: Q&A | Tackling the real issue of fake news

“Discussions on how to combat fake news have surfaced in Parliaments in different countries, including Singapore in the last two years, as widely spread falsehoods have resulted in very real consequences.”



Bangkok Post: “Thailand ‘not free’ since coup

“Thailand bears little resemblance to a liberal democracy and it’s only getting worse. This is the verdict of US think tank Freedom House…. In its new annual country report, it has rated Thailand ‘not free’ for the fourth year since the coup in 2014.”


Bangkok Post: “Govt denies student rally claim

“The students said after the incident soldiers and police officers approached the universities to find out the students’ personal information. The officers also went to their homes to meet their parents…. This is intimidation and an attempt to hinder freedom of expression, they claimed.”



Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) & Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam. “The Observatory: Viet Nam: Arbitrary detention and sentencing of six members of Brotherhood for Democracy

“The Observatory has been informed by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) about the ongoing arbitrary detention, judicial harassment and sentencing of human rights lawyer and Brotherhood for Democracy (1) founder Nguyen Van Dai, his assistant Le Thu Ha, and Brotherhood for Democracy members Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen.”

See also:

Loa: “Six Vietnamese Activists Sentenced to Sixty Six Years in Prison

The Interpreter: “Vietnam’s crackdown on dissent could undermine its stability and growth


Channel News Asia: “Vietnam activists accuse Facebook of censoring content

“A group of 50 Vietnamese activists and rights organisations have written an open letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg suggesting his company may be colluding with communist authorities to scrub out online dissent.”




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

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