In 2017, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) recorded 128 incidents of threats to and attacks against media and journalists in the region.
The data and information reflect the country analyses and the observations of other press freedom indices. Year 2017 showed that media and journalists in the region were vulnerable and at risk for simply doing their jobs. The practice of the profession was put under pressure through court demands and proceedings, as well as content restrictions. With the first quarter of this year done, the press freedom situation has looked more dire as violations keep piling up.
Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
Without doubt, Cambodia’s democracy is now completely dead.
However, a few questions remain unanswered: Why did the government launch a string of crackdowns only after the commune elections in June 2017? Why was the independent media targeted? What will Cambodia’s democracy and national elections look like when there is no opposition party and the independent media have been silenced by the government?
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI, Alliance of Independent Journalists) Indonesia
Last year, 2017, was marked with a number of distressing facts with regards to the Indonesian press — its freedom, professionalism, and labor-related issues.
One of the main indicators of Indonesia’s press freedom situation is the number of violent incidents against journalists and the media. This parameter reports the number of physical violence, obstruction of journalists from reporting, confiscation of equipment and data, etc. Based on the data from AJI Indonesia Advocation Division, there were 60 cases of violence against journalists in 2017, making it the second highest figure in the past ten years.
Forum Jurnalis Perempuan Indonesia (FJPI, Indonesian Women Journalists Forum)
The Indonesian press has not been free from violence and abuse against journalists. There were more than 60 cases recorded from 2017 to March 2018, with at least 20 percent of the cases involving women journalists. Cases of violence against and harassment of women journalists have been high in Indonesia. But many of them do not reveal or prefer to keep silent.
Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ)
The state continues to exercise control over media and internet freedom through legislation. Restrictions to media freedom imposed by the state in 2017 included investigation of journalists whose reports were deemed to be inaccurate and sensational; and outlets investigated for violations under Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA). Defamation lawsuits continue to be filed against media companies and its personnel have been used as a tool to ensure responsible journalism and media accountability. The state continues to use CMA, Penal Code and Sedition Act to penalise politicians, activists, bloggers, and citizens for content. Discussions of race and religion continue to be restricted, and censored.
Burma News International (BNI)
Even with the National League for Democracy (NLD) at the helm, there is not much generous sign of media reform.
In the same way, situations of journalists are more vulnerable because of political volatility. Over the past year, journalists have been subjected to threats and violence from religious extremists. Those that write about national security, anti-corruption, religion, conflict, land rights, drug trafficking, illegal logging and wood smuggling among other subjects, are at certain risk.
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR)
The press in the Philippines faced threats, harassments, and attacks from 2017 to the present in the context of the culture of impunity that since 1986 has exempted from punishment most of the killers of journalists and all the brains behind them. Despite constitutional protection, the freedom of journalists and media organizations to report the truth and serve the public has been even more endangered in the current political environment.
At the center of this landscape is a president whose hostility and animosity against the press have sharpened the level of threat and attacks against individual journalists, making the practice of independent journalism more difficult and more problematic than these have been since the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)
In his first 22 months in power, Mr. Duterte has earned the dubious honor of logging 85 various cases of attacks and threats on these dual values that the Constitution upholds as inalienable rights of the citizens. The number far exceeds those recorded under four presidents before him.
Kirsten Han and Roy Ngerng
The media and journalism industry in Singapore continues to be tightly controlled and regulated by the government, with the introduction of new laws and measures that carry significant implications for media freedom in the city-state.
Multiple laws with serious implications for free speech and journalism have been passed in Parliament or come into force in the past year. Media freedom has been an unfortunate casualty in the ongoing clampdown against civil liberties and shrinking of civil society space in Singapore.
New, possibly restrictive, media legislation are also pending as the junta has included media reform as a key element of its national reform, while journalists and other media professionals are anxious that the upcoming laws could make current environment even more repressive.
In its annual media situation report of 2017, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) labeled 2017 as the year of “control, harass, struggle.” It said in its introduction of the report that: “This is another year that media have to operate under strict oversight by State’s power, and have to face with an anti-media attitude of the (government’s) leaders.” It said that the government has exploited the excuse of national security to oppress media, using it as a tool in intervening with their operations.
Asosiasaun Jornalista Timor Lorosa’e (AJTL, Timor Leste Journalist Association)
The Constitution of Timor-Leste sets out freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Articles 40 and 41. Timor-Leste also has ratified more than ten international human rights conventions, which strengthen the guarantees of freedom of the press and of expression, to help move democracy-building forward in the country.
The Press law of Timor-Leste gives more spaces to the Timorese journalists to exercise their duties. It imposes sanctions to be handed down to any state agent trying to impede or threaten journalists working in the public spaces.
Journalists are free to talk about everything, except to criticize politics – which has been considered as “sensitive topic” over the public sphere.
Furthermore, “propaganda against the State” and “taking advantage of the freedom of expression to voice against the State” are still recognized and constituted in the criminal code. The risks of being condemned for above crimes are threatening those who dare to raise their voice on the wrongdoings of the government.
Pham Doan Trang
Freedom of expression in Vietnam has shrunk dramatically since early 2016 when the communist leader Nguyen Phu Trong reinforced his position in the Party’s 12th Congress and started his personal crusade, disguised as an “anti-corruption battle,” against both his communist rivals inside the party and his non-communist dissidents, most of whom are democracy and rights activists. The situation got worse throughout 2017 with massive arrests of and harsh punishment against both of his targets.
But since the 12th Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) in January 2016, the government has proved to be so tough even though it was just halfway through their terms of office or halfway through the time between two congresses. Dozens of people have been arrested and many were given lengthy prison terms.