Weekly Media Roundup (9 – 15 February 2019)

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) 


[Philippines] Rappler’s Maria Ressa arrested for cyber libel

See also: 

SEAPA, other groups issue joint statement of solidarity with Ressa and Rappler; call for all charges to be dropped ; Maria Ressa’s arrest ‘belies all pretense of upholding press freedom’ —SEAPA

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP): Arrest of Maria Ressa is persecution by a bully government

Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR): Rappler’s Maria Ressa Posts Bail on Cyber Libel ; An Attack on One is an Attack on All

Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI, Alliance of Independent Journalists): AJI Condemns the Arrest of Journalist Maria Ressa

Forum Jurnalis Perempuan Indonesia (Indonesian Women’s Journalists Forum, FJPI): FJPI regrets the criminalization of Maria Ressa

IFEX: “Global solidarity for Rappler and Maria Ressa who vow to fight for a free press” 


[Philippines] National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP): Negros media up in arms over ‘drug list’


[Thailand] Voice TV shutdown yet another assault on press freedom —SEAPA

See also: 

On NBTC suspension order: Voice TV treated ‘unfairly and feels discriminated against’



[Myanmar] Ayeyarwady river at risk from rampant sand mining



Fact-checking initiative launched ahead of May mid-term elections


Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). “MONEY AND THE MAY 2019 ELECTIONS | Candidates, beware: Law bans bribery, cash gifts, donations” 

See also: 

P2.4-B pre-campaign ads: Bong Go, Marcos, Roxas, Roque top spenders” 

PCIJ Audit: Candidates on Social Media” 


Romancing storms, worms and leaves: Growing ‘batek’ in the shadow of environmental perils


Southeast Asia 

Asia News Network: “Press freedom is deteriorating in Asia, elections may offer a reset button” 

“With four countries, Thailand, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, going to polls later this year, it would be a powerful rebuke by the electorate to vote in parties that vow to preserve the freedom of the press. Elections offer a wonderful opportunity to press the reset button in many of these countries where the government sees the media not as an asset but as an enemy.” 


The Diplomat: “Southeast Asia’s Battle Against Disinformation” 

“Disinformation campaigns have entered the agenda of many states around the globe. As countries continue to introduce solutions, there may emerge a gap among various countries in terms of their capacities to respond to disinformation campaigns. As disinformation campaigns enter the agenda of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) as a security concern, inequalities in member countries’ approach to, apprehensions about, and competence to counter disinformation campaigns may impede regional collaboration on the issue.” 

See also: 

The ASEAN Post: “Between fake news and press freedom” 



The Phnom Penh Post: “Kratie police question man in connection with murder of journalist” 

“Kratie provincial police are questioning a man who was arrested on Thursday (7 February 2019) in connection with the murder of a journalist on February 3 in Snuol district’s Pi Thnou commune…. Deputy provincial police chief Suos Chamroeun told The Post on Sunday that 19-year-old Vorn Vinh is suspected of killing 18-year-old Sorn Sithy, a reporter for the Battambang Post online agency, following a heated argument at a dance party.” 

See also: 

Khmer Times: “Cops nab suspect in reporter’s killing” 


The Phnom Penh Post: “Lese majeste convict not free” 

“Following a court hearing on January 28, the Appeal Court on Tuesday (12 February 2019) extended the prison sentence – from seven months to 10 – of a man who was convicted for violating of the Kingdom’s lese majeste law…. Ban Samphy, 70, a barber and deputy leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kraeng district, was supposed to be freed on December 20, as his defence lawyer Sam Titseyha had said previously.” 


The Phnom Penh Post: “NGOs call for speedy passage of information freedom law” 

“A group of 19 non-governmental organisations and associations have urged the Kingdom’s legislative and executive bodies to expedite the passage of a draft law on freedom of information, which the group said had been delayed for years…. The group sent separate letters to Senate President Say Chhum, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith.” 

See also: 

Khmer Times: “Groups express support for Access to Information Law” ; “Access to Information draft law ready” 



The Jakarta Post: “Where did Alpantuni go? Instagram accused of removing gay Muslim comic strip” 

“The government and social media platform Instagram gave conflicting statements regarding the shutdown of an Instagram account that posted a comic strip depicting the struggles of a gay Muslim man living in a religiously conservative society…. The government claimed on Wednesday (13 February 2019) that the social media giant, which is highly popular among Indonesians, had removed the account after an outcry from Indonesian internet users, who have in the past few years been in the grip of a moral panic about the LGBT community.” 


The Jakarta Post: “(Editorial) Free press, fewer hoaxes” 

“As Indonesia is entering the final phase of the simultaneous elections this year and as disinformation campaigns intensify, traditional media platforms play an ever-more crucial role. Established media companies characterized by their journalistic ethics and standards have had a long tradition of presenting only verified news to the public, the only antidote today to counter fake news. Also, only independent and unbiased media are able to fact-check the claims of political candidates.” 


Al Jazeera: “Indonesia artists slam bill banning ‘negative’ foreign influences” 

“Musicians in Indonesia have slammed a new draft law seeking to criminalise content deemed pornographic or blasphemous, saying it could potentially limit freedom of expression across the vast archipelago…. Under the Music Bill (RUU Permusikan), which is being considered by parliament, creators would be ‘prohibited from including negative influences from foreign cultures or those that demean human dignity’.” 


The Jakarta Post: “Activist threatens to sue Facebook for shutting down his accounts” 

“Indonesian social media activist Permadi Arya has threatened to file a Rp 1 trillion (US$71.68 million) lawsuit against Facebook after the tech giant shut down his account in a crackdown on fake news in Indonesia…. Permadi, also known as Abu Janda, said Facebook had made serious allegations by accusing him of being part of fake news group Saracen and shutting down his Facebook pages and accounts.” 



Free Malaysia Today (FMT): “Don’t threaten media over degrees row, PH leaders told” 

“An NGO championing media freedom has urged Pakatan Harapan (PH) government leaders not to threaten the media for questioning the academic credentials of some of them…. This follows Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s warning of possible legal action against those who make ‘defamatory statements’ about his qualifications, including pro-Barisan Nasional media outlets.” 


The Star Online: “Mahfuz: Media should avoid ‘armchair journalism’” 

“Media practitioners should avoid practising ‘armchair journalism’ in efforts to deliver more accurate news to the public, says Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Mahfuz Omar…. He said inaccurate reports, particularly ‘inappropriate news’, would cause the community to feel uneasy and unsafe…” 


The Star Online: “No plans to emulate Thailand and enact lese majeste law” 

“Malaysia has no intention of following in the footsteps of Thailand in enacting a lese majeste law to protect the Rulers here…. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the country had adequate laws to protect the position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Malay Rulers.” 

See also: 

The Malaysian Insight: “Minister doesn’t rule out lese-majeste law in Malaysia” 



Radio Free Asia: “21 Injured During Protest Against Aung San Statue in Myanmar’s Kayah State” 

“Myanmar police injured 21 ethnic Karenni protesters Tuesday (12 February 2019) when they used rubber bullets and a water cannon to break up a demonstration in Kayah state capital’s Loikaw over a statue of the father of Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a local protester said…. About 5,000 Karenni marched in three columns during the morning protest, demanding that officials remove or relocate a newly inaugurated gold-colored statue of Myanmar independence hero General Aung San from a public park.” 

See also: 

Reuters: “Myanmar police use rubber bullets to break up protest” 



Rappler.com: “Maria Ressa posts P100,000 bail for cyber libel” 

“Rappler CEO Maria Ressa posted bail of P100,000 before a Manila court on Thursday, February 14, for her to be released after spending the night in detention at the National Bureau of Investigation…. Ressa’s lawyer JJ Disini went to the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) as soon as it opened Thursday morning to pay the bail set by Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio Montesa.”

See also: 

Ex-Rappler researcher posts P100,000 bail for cyber libel” ; “‘Persecution by a bully government’: Journalists, advocates slam arrest of Maria Ressa” ; “TIMELINE: Rappler’s cyber libel case” 

VERA Files. “Government attacks against the media: an updated timeline” 

CNN Philippines. “National Press Club: Ressa’s arrest done in bad taste, but libel case not harassment” 

The Philippine Star: “Philstar.com’s statement on the 2002 article on Wilfredo Keng” 

Manila Bulletin: “‘Press freedom is not under attack.’ – Secretary Martin Andanar” 

INQUIRER.net. “Maria Ressa’s accuser: ‘I am not being used by Philippine gov’t’” 


VERA Files: “Palace denies VERA Files’ FOI request on Duterte’s health; official statement, medical records ‘not on file’” 

“Prompted by Duterte’s pronouncements in October 2018 that he underwent medical tests amid rumors of his deteriorating condition, VERA Files filed an FOI request with the Office of the President (OP) to get the real score on the president’s health…. The request was eventually denied after a process riddled with technicalities and vague explanations.” 

See also: 

BusinessWorld: “(Opinion) Representing themselves” 


ABS-CBN News: “Comelec asks public to report illegal campaign posters” 

“The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has come up with an online system to collect reports of candidates violating campaign rules, such as those on oversized and misplaced posters, ahead of the May 13 midterm elections…. The poll body earlier gave national candidates 72 hours before the official start of their campaign period on Tuesday to take down illegal forms of election propaganda.” 


VERA Files: “Media groups, academe join forces in election fact-checking initiative” 

“Eleven news organizations and three universities formed a pioneering consortium that would combat fake news expected to proliferate during the campaign for the May 2019 elections, which started Feb. 12…. Launched Monday, Tsek.ph is an online collaborative fact-checking initiative that includes ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs, Baguio Midland Courier, Interaksyon, Mindanews, the Philippine Star, Philstar.com, Probe Productions, CLTV 36, Rappler, VERA Files, and DZUP. Its academic partners are the University of the Philippines (UP), the Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University.” 

See also: 

Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact- checking project to be launched Feb. 11” 

ABS-CBN News: “News orgs, universities launch 2019 elections fact-checking site” 

philstar.com: “Academe, media launch Tsek.ph for collaborative fact-checking” 



The Interpreter: “Singapore: data leaks in a ‘Smart Nation’” 

“But the flip side of such large-scale data hoarding is far less discussed in Singapore. Decisions about the collection and centralisation of data should only happen after critical reflection and discussion over the trade-offs involved, yet questions about how and where data is stored, who gets access to it and for what reason, are rarely addressed in depth. While Singapore does have personal data protection laws, the legislation specifically exempts the government, which means that citizens have limited avenues to monitor and restrain the way in which the government uses our data.” 

See also: 

TODAY. “Security measures of HIV Registry in line with prevailing policies in 2012-2013: Health Minister” 

Channel NewsAsia. “HIV data leak: ‘I reject any allegation MOH sought to cover up incident,’ says Gan Kim Yong” 

The Straits Times. “Data leak: MOH knew only in 2016 that Brochez had access to HIV information” 


TODAY. “S’pore to consider laws to counter foreign interference: Edwin Tong” 

“Singapore will consider new laws to counter foreign interference, as it is ‘especially vulnerable’ to these exploits which stir up distrust and undermine its democratic processes, said Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong…. He also said on Tuesday (Feb 12) that the Government noticed a spike in anonymous ‘avatar’ accounts posting comments on social media after the recent dispute between Singapore and Malaysia broke out.” 



Bangkok Post: “Voice TV back on air after court grants injunction” 

“Voice TV is back on air after the Central Administrative Court issued an injunction against the broadcasting regulator’s 15-day blackout order pending a trial…. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on Wednesday (13 February 2019) ordered the company to stop its TV broadcast from midnight the same day, using its power under the Broadcasting Act.” 

See also: 

Press urge lifting of Voice TV gag order” 

Voice TV: “องค์กรสื่อระหว่างประเทศชี้ ช่องวอยซ์ทีวี ‘จอมืด’ เป็นการคุกคามเสรีภาพสื่ออีกครั้ง (International media organizations point out Voice TV channels ‘dark screen’ is a threat to media freedom again)” 

Khaosod English: “Voice TV Ordered Off the Air 15 Days” 

Prachatai English: “Voice TV suspended for 15 days during election campaigns” 

Thai PBS: “NBTC asked to review suspension order against pro-Thaksin Voice TV” 


Khaosod English: “Police Seek Perpetrators of Fake Junta Order Removing Army Chief” 

“Police were looking Monday (11 February 2019) morning for whoever was behind a forged Royal Gazette announcement that Army Chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong and other armed forces leaders had been removed by the junta leader…. Apirat, who is also junta secretary, ordered its legal team to file a police complaint and bring the perpetrator to justice.” 


Bangkok Post: “Cops nab local body deputy in records bust” 

“A deputy mayor of tambon Wiang Lo in Phayao’s Chun district has been arrested for breaking into a police database to steal records of individuals for sale, police say…. The arrest of Somchai Kempeth, 37, also the former deputy leader of a party, was announced yesterday (13 February 2019) by Immigration Bureau (IB) commissioner Surachate Hakparn, who also serves as the deputy chief of the Thailand’s Action Taskforce for Information Technology Crime (Tactic).” 


Khaosod English: “Papers Please! BTS Cash Card Users Must Disclose Personal Info” 

“Starting in nine days, commuters who pay their skytrain fares with top-up cards must give up their ID card numbers, email addresses and phone numbers to the system’s operator…. Citing a clause in 20-year-old anti-money legislation, the BTS said its so-called Rabbit Cards could be used for illicit financial activities and therefore must be registered. The explanation didn’t fly on social media, where many suspected ulterior motives.” 


Khaosod English: “Improper Display of King Portrait Brings Police to Thai Raksa Chart” 

“Word that a party allied with former leader Thaksin Shinawatra was inappropriately displaying His Majesty the King’s portrait prompted a police visit Tuesday (12 February 2019) morning…. A senior officer at Bangkok’s Thung Song Hong Police Station said he led several policemen to Thai Raksa Chart headquarters to make sure the portrait was being displayed correctly. The party spokesman wrote online they had no intention to insult the king.” 



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

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