Weekly Media Roundup (9 – 15 March 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) 


[Myanmar] Burma News International (BNI): “Mining Company Takes Legal Action Against Myitkyina Journal” 



[Malaysia] Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ): “Stop hate speech, protect minorities” 



[Regional] Southeast Asia’s draconian cyber laws: In the name of ‘national security’, so say states

See also: 

[Philippines] Digital Reality Bites: Alternative Media in the Crosshairs of Cyber Attacks


[Philippines] Women of the Mountains

See also: 

360: The changing mountain calendar in Sagada


[Timor-Leste] Voices: Tasi Mane Petroleum Project Brings Concern, Optimism to Southern Coast


[Vietnam] Provinces say ‘no’ to coal power as central government, industries build more


General news 

The Washington Post: “News organizations to highlight most threatened journalists” 

“A coalition of more than a dozen global news organizations, including The Associated Press, The Financial Times and Reuters, will spotlight the world’s most threatened journalists in a new freedom of speech initiative, the group announced Friday (15 March 2019) in New York…. Members of the One Free Press Coalition will publish on their platforms each month a ‘10 Most Urgent’ list of journalists who have been jailed, threatened or attacked for their work…. The group’s mission is to use the voices of its members to ‘stand up for journalists under attack for pursuing the truth,’ the organization said.” 

See also: 

TIME: “These Are the 10 Journalists Facing the ‘Most Urgent’ Threats to Press Freedom Around the World” 

Reuters: “Myanmar reporters among ‘10 most urgent’ cases of press freedom violations” 

HuffPost: “New Press Coalition Starts ‘10 Most Urgent’ List Of Journalists Under Attack” 


Southeast Asia 

NHK: “Battle for press freedom” 

“The battle for press freedom can be seen all over the world. Recently, two journalists — one from the Philippines and the other from Indonesia — visited Japan and spoke to NHK about how serious the issue is in their countries.” 


Radio Free Asia (RFA): “Southeast Asian Women Call For Greater Opportunities, Lament War and Repression” 

“International Women’s Day was celebrated throughout Southeast Asia on Friday (8 March 2019) with peaceful processions calling for equal opportunities for all women and personal appeals for greater female involvement in politics in the traditionally conservative, male-dominated region.” 


South China Morning Post: “As internet adoption grows in Southeast Asia, SMEs must defend against sophisticated cyberattacks” 

“However, a key vulnerability in the region is the number of small to medium enterprises (SMEs), which typically have lower IT budgets than huge multinational corporations. Ernst & Young estimates that SMEs in Southeast Asia account for more than 95 per cent of all business establishments…. Given this picture, cyber criminals are zeroing in on the relative lack of security at SMEs to infect numerous computers as a prelude to launching large-scale cyberattacks, such as gaining access to a hub’s global connections via a local intrusion.” 



Khmer Times: “Women detained in stadium on Int’l Women’s Day” 

“Around 400 persons, mostly women, gathered at the Olympic Stadium on Friday (March 8) to celebrate International Women’s Day that is themed “Promotion of Gender Equity and Social Protection for Human Resource Development.” They planned to file petitions at various government bureaus, but were contained in the stadium by security personnel…. The women from over ten organizations and unions attempted to leave the stadium to go to the Council of Ministers, the ministries of Women’s Affairs, of Labour, of Justice, of the Interior, of Foreign Affairs, and the National Committee for Counter Trafficking and file their petitions requesting the resolve of certain issues. Security guards shut the gates, locking them in. This caused a bit of a commotion, but no violence.” 



Bloomberg: “Cybersecurity | Indonesia Says Election Under Attack From Chinese, Russian Hackers” 

“Chinese and Russian hackers are attacking Indonesia’s voter data base in a bid to disrupt the country’s upcoming presidential election, according to a senior election commission official…. As Indonesia prepares for simultaneous presidential and legislative polls on April 17, authorities are facing a wave of cyber incursions they say may be aimed at discrediting the polling process. The head of Indonesia’s General Elections Commission, Arief Budiman, said some of the attacks originated in Russia and China, and include attempts to ‘manipulate or modify’ content as well as to create so-called ghost voters, or fake voter identities.” 


Reuters: “In Indonesia, Facebook and Twitter are ‘buzzer’ battlegrounds as elections loom” 

“Under Indonesia’s broad internet defamation law, creating and spreading fake news is illegal, but holding social media accounts in false names is not, unless a real person is being impersonated. Social media companies however mostly bar holding accounts under false names…. Three buzzers directly involved in the current campaign described how they operate hundreds of personalized social media accounts each on behalf of the candidates. One denied propagating fake news, while two said they didn’t care about the accuracy of the content…. Both campaign teams deny using buzzers or spreading fake news.” 


Asia Pacific Report: “Activist’s arrest shows Widodo ‘no different’ from Suharto, says AJI” 

“The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has called on the Indonesian police to release Jakarta State University lecturer Robertus Robet who has been indicted on charges of insulting the authorities or a public agency…. AJI says that a speech given by Robert during a Kamisan (Thursday) action in front of the State Palace on February 28 which touched on the dual socio-political role (dwi-fungsi) of ABRI — an abbreviation for the Indonesian Armed Forces, now called TNI — was an act of free expression by a citizen which is guaranteed under Article 28E Paragraph (3) of the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945).” 


The Jakarta Post: “I’m not a criminal, Andi Arief slams senior journalist for ‘ethics breach’” 

“Outspoken government critic Andi Arief has accused Karni Ilyas, a senior Indonesian journalist working for TV One, of ‘defaming him’ on television following his recent illicit drug case…. Andi, who recently resigned from his post as the deputy secretary-general of the Democratic Party, has urged Karni to apologize in public for ‘defaming him and violating media ethics’.” 



Malaysiakini: “Batu Caves temple committee critic claims interview cancelled due to threats” 

“The chairperson of an NGO, which has been vocal about the alleged wrongdoings of the Batu Caves Sri Subramaniar Temple committee, has lodged a police report following the cancellation of a radio programme he was supposed to be featured in regarding the issue…. Arun Doraisamy claimed the radio station – cited security concerns for cancelling the slot.” 

See also: 

Gerakan Media Merdeka (GERAMM). “PRESS STATEMENT: Geramm condemns alleged threats against THR Raaga” 


Free Malaysia Today (FMT): “Educate, not punish those who insult Islam and prophet, say groups” 

“Eleven organisations today (11 March 2019) called on the government to reconsider the punishment meted out to those convicted of insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad on social media, suggesting rehabilitative initiatives instead … The statement said disproportionate and unjust prison sentences are likely to fester resentment and do little in changing a person’s behaviour.” 


New Straits Times: “Gobind says committed to free speech following ‘new law’ for portals announcement” 

“Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo’s announcement yesterday that a new law is being mulled which would hold news portals accountable for inflammatory remarks by their readers triggered an uproar among free-speech advocates…. In response to the flak, the minister clarified his comments today, saying that it is necessary for websites to self-regulate by monitoring readers’ comments on their sites to filter out hate speech which could impact the nation’s stability.” 


ASEAN Economist: “Malaysia LGBT groups at rally spark backlash” 

“A Malaysian minister has sparked anger by criticising the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups at the weekend’s International Women’s Day events…. The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, a coalition of 12 women’s rights organisations, urged the government to reaffirm the rights of all Malaysians to peaceful assembly and expression, instead of harassing female activists and peaceful protesters.” 

See also: 

Malaysiakini: “A guide to what happened at Women’s March” 

Malay Mail: “CIJ calls out two Malay dailies for demonising Women’s Day March” 


Free Malaysia Today (FMT): “Make Freedom of Information Act a priority, think tank tells govt” 

“The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) today (14 March 2019) presented several suggestions on combatting corruption, one of which is having a Freedom of Information Act (FOI)…. Aira Azhari, senior research executive with the think tank’s Democracy and Governance Unit, today stressed on the need for an ecosystem where information was freely available to the public through an FOI.” 



The Irrawaddy: “Mining Company Accused of Assaulting Journalists Sues for Defamation” 

“A mining company in Kachin State has filed a defamation lawsuit against two editors and a reporter from the Myitkyina Journal over their coverage of local residents’ concerns about a controversial Chinese tissue-culture banana plantation in Waimaw Township…. The case follows the Journal’s own lawsuit against the managing director and five other employees of the mining company. The Journal opened cases at the Waimaw Police Station on five counts relating to the alleged detention and assault of two Myitkyina Journal reporters in late February.” 


The New York Times: “Facebook Intervenes in a Civil War, to Mixed Results” 

“Reporters are largely blocked from conflict areas in Myanmar, and government accounts are considered unreliable. The rebels’ accounts, too, had to be read with a skeptical eye, but did offer valuable, real-time updates of what was happening on the ground…. Like many in Myanmar, the rebels communicated with the public largely through Facebook — until the social network said no more … The bans are the latest sign of Facebook’s growing power in many countries, where its control over the flow of information and public discourse makes it akin to national broadcaster, public utility and political regulator all rolled into one…. And they are the latest test of Facebook’s ability to wield that power responsibly.” 


EngageMedia: “Are You Ready?” 

“Are You Ready is a short animated film that provides an overview of Myanmar’s Article 66(D) of the 2013 Telecommunication Law. It describes the impact on freedom of expression in Myanmar, and how people’s digital rights are being violated…. The film showcases how authorities abuse the law to avoid and repress dissent.” 

See also: 

It’s Time to Talk” 



Rappler.com: “Manila court imposes P500,000 travel bond for Rappler’s Maria Ressa” 

“The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) initially imposed a P500,000 ($9,480) travel bond on Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa over her cyber libel charge before the court…. Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa on Thursday morning, March 14, granted Ressa’s motion to travel overseas in March and April but subject to a half a million bond…. After an urgent motion filed Thursday afternoon asking to reduce the bond for being excessive, Branch 46 brought it down to P100,000 per travel or P300,000 overall (about $6,000).” 

See also: 

Court of Appeals denies Rappler appeal in SEC case” 

CNN Philippines: “Manila court allows Maria Ressa to travel abroad” 

ABS-CBN News: “CA maintains Rappler not fully Filipino owned” 

The Philippine Star: “Court of Appeals junks Rappler appeal on SEC case” 

Philippine Daily Inquirer: “CA rejects anew Rappler bid on foreign investor” 


Bulatlat.com: “What World Day against Cyber Censorship means to Filipino journalists” 

“In the Philippines, Internet connection does exist even if it is among the slowest worldwide. But access to websites that provide sharp and comprehensive analyses of national and global issues is being cut off through relentless cyber-attacks. Through what is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), an insidious and well-funded cyber-attack is being conducted to overwhelm the server of a website to deny legitimate readers access to its contents…. During the protest action, AlterMidya People’s Media Network national coordinator Rhea Padilla said that government’s inaction over the repeated attempts of Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation to reach out regarding the cyber-attacks pushes them to believe that this is a state-sanctioned move.” 

See also: 

Pooled editorial | Overcome cyber martial law” 

Qurium Media Foundation: “Demonstration in front of the National CERT of Philippines for failing to act on cyber attacks targeting regime critical media and civil society organizations” 

philstar.com: “Alternative news orgs demand DICT action on cyber attacks” 

Global Voices: “Groups denounce continuous cyberattacks against independent media in the Philippines” 


philstar.com: “Filipino journalists critical of gov’t continue to face harassment — US State Dept” 

“Journalists in the Philippines who have been critical in their coverage of the government continue to experience harassment and threats of violence, according to the United States Department of State…. In its ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018,’ the US agency noted that human rights non-government organizations have been criticizing the Philippine government for its failure to protect journalists.” 


ANCX: “What Twinmark should teach us about tsismis, taxes, and social media” 

“Some of the reactions to ABS-CBN’s exclusive on Twinmark Media Enterprises have been funny. In the exclusive, it was revealed the company owned by three brothers, last name Hicban, earned at least P250M in just 5 years. They earned the money by gaming Facebook and Google, abusing a clicks-for-cash scheme by fraudulently creating artificial traffic on various social media pages, including over 300 Facebook and Instagram accounts.  Twinmark insiders said they earned P250M in 5 years spreading viral ‘tsismis’ or gossip, (also known as ‘Fake News’) on social media before Facebook banned the company for misrepresentation, spamming, and coordinated inauthentic behavior. When people heard the story their reactions were, ‘Ganon kasimple lang!?!’ or ‘Kaya ko yan! Sana ako na lang!” Of course some of the reactions were in jest, but a deeper look into social media based businesses reveals an underground economy and a thriving enterprise, thanks to ill-equipped government regulators.” 


Coconuts Manila: “Duterte says misogynistic remarks were his right, part of freedom of expression” 

“Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is infamous for his misogynistic remarks, and yesterday (11 March 2019) he defended them by saying they were all part of his right to express himself…. Duterte said this during a speech in Malacañang Palace in Manila, at the awarding ceremony for the Outstanding Women in Law Enforcement and National Security of the Philippines of all places.” 

See also: 

philstar.com: “Duterte claims female critics depriving him of his right to freedom of expression” 

GMA News. “Gabriela tells Duterte: Freedom of expression not an excuse for ‘abusive, misogynistic’ speech” 

Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Duterte says women misunderstand him” 


The Philippine Star: “National ID registration starts in September” 

“The corresponding card will be issued a few days later after the information are authenticated. The card will serve as the single ID system for all Filipino citizens and resident aliens, which aims to eliminate the need to present other forms of identification when transacting with the government and private sector. (Philippine Statistics Authority deputy national statistician Lourdines) Dela Cruz pointed out they are targeting to issue 100 million cards to Filipinos and resident aliens by 2022.” 


INQUIRER.net: “47% of Filipino adults use the Internet — SWS” 

“The percentage of Filipino adults using the Internet have reached record-high in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey…. The poll, which was conducted from December 16-19, 2018, found that 47 percent of adult Filipinos use the Internet.” 



The Straits Times: “High Court dismisses blogger Leong Sze Hian’s bid to strike out PM Lee Hsien Loong’s libel suit” 

“The High Court has dismissed an application by blogger Leong Sze Hian to strike out Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s claim against him for defamation, meaning the case is set to go to trial…. In a written judgment issued on Tuesday (12 March 2019), Justice Aedit Abdullah also struck out Mr Leong’s counterclaim against PM Lee which argued that the libel suit is an abuse of the court process. The judge found that the countersuit did not have a ‘reasonable cause of action’, as the legal basis it was premised on did not exist.” 

See also: 

TODAY: “PM’s libel suit against blogger not an abuse of court process, says High Court” 

Yahoo News Singapore: “Blogger Leong Sze Hian’s counterclaim against PM Lee’s libel suit struck out” 

The Online Citizen (TOC): “High Court strikes out Leong Sze Hian’s counterclaim against PM Lee’s suit, citing ‘no reasonable cause of action’” 

Front Line Defenders: “Leong Sze Hian faces defamation case” 


TechCrunch: “Facebook won’t store data in countries with human rights violations — except Singapore” 

“As soon as Mark Zuckerberg said in a lengthy 3,225-word blog post to not build data centers in countries with poor human rights, he had already broken his promise…. He chose to ignore Singapore, which the Facebook  founder had only months earlier posted about, declaring the micro-state home to the company’s first data center in Asia to ‘serve everyone’ … If there are two things Singapore is known for, it’s that there’s no privacy nor freedom of expression.” 



Prachatai English. “‘Programming will return shortly’: international news media broadcasts censored?” 

“Al Jazeera’s news broadcast on True Visions cable TV momentarily stopped on the morning of 8 March. It is currently not confirmed which story was cut…. At 9.42 on 8 March, it was reported that Al Jazeera’s news broadcast was cut off, leaving only a blank screen with the message: ‘Programming will return shortly.’” 


Bangkok Post: “Parties promise to revoke NCPO’s media muzzling laws” 

“The Future Forward and Democrat parties reassured the media Thursday (14 March 2019) they will push to revoke National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) directives that restrict press freedom in Thailand…. Speaking during a ‘Political party policies toward the media’ discussion hosted by the Thai Journalists Association, Pannika Wanich, a spokeswoman for the Future Forward Party said her party’s plans to set up a committee to review six of the NCPO’s orders imposed on the media.” 

See also: 

Khaosod English: “Royal Defamation Reform Remains Untouchable Topic, Survey Finds” 


The Straits Times: “Thai junta chief says cyber security law will not be used to tap phones” 

“Thailand’s junta chief batted away criticism of a controversial cyber security law on Thursday (March 14), saying it will not be used to ‘tap phone calls’…. The country’s rubber-stamp Parliament passed the Bill on Feb 28, triggering pushback from rights groups and companies worried about privacy breaches.” 


Bangkok Post: “Mum seeks early release for Jatupat” 

“The mother of activist Jatupat Boonpatraksa, also known as ‘Pai Dao Din’, says red tape has prevented her son from qualifying for early release from jail following a lese majeste conviction…. Prim Boonpatraksa went to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday to demand justice after Jatupat failed to secure early release from prison.” 



ucanews.com: “Vietnam eviction victims denied free speech” 

“Eviction victims in southern Vietnam and their lawyers have accused local government officials of depriving them of their freedom of expression by refusing to let them hold a press conference…. Four representatives of more than 100 households, who claim their land was illegally grabbed in January by Ho Chi Minh City authorities, informed the city’s Department of Information and Communication that they would be holding a news conference on their seized land on March 13.” 



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