Southeast Asia didn’t fare too well in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Indonesia is on top regionally, but sits further down than I expected, while Vietnam brings up the tail of the region just ahead of North Korea and Eritrea.
So this World Press Freedom Day, let’s have a quick look around the region.
New Naratif, which has had its own problems with operating freely from its home in Singapore, spoke with a whole lot of its contributors about their experiences reporting across the region. Restrictions on a free press don’t always look like a policeman in the face of a reporter, the team wrote. ‘Press freedom isn’t just about the journalists’ physical safety, but the entire climate in which reporters have to operate. Outside of prosecutions or threats, there are far more mundane ways in which reporters are impeded and obstructed.’
Cambodia dropped 10 places this year, on the back of shuttering publications seen as anti-government and introducing a lese-majeste law, but this hasn’t worried the Cambodia Association for Protection of Journalists. In a statement quoted by the Phnom Penh Post (itself the target of a rumours about an imminent shutdown), the organisation said it ‘highly values the situation of press freedom in Cambodia, which is regarded as the country with the best media situation among the Asean countries.’ Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar would all like a word, thanks.
This one on Malaysia’s fake news bill is a little older now, but explores how the bill came to be and why. I am not entirely certain the fake news changes happened in time for the index, given that it dropped only one place, and I would be interested to see where it places next year.
The Philippines is in an odd position here, I think. With the high profile detention of journalists throughout the Mekong states as well as recent developments in Malaysia and Singapore, the Philippines’ position as one of the most deadly environments for a working journalist in THE WORLD has not been loudly acknowledged today. Local media organisations have teamed up in Manila to demonstrate against the attacks, which include a death just two days ago, and push for more freedoms. Overall, the Philippines fell six spots from last year to 133rd and remains the number one deadly country for journalists in Asia.
One of my faves, Michael Vatikiotis, reflects on how draconian laws around the region exploit reasonable privacy and data security concerns. His answer: we need trustworthy media.
So let’s end this on a somewhat hopeful note – the testimony of a policeman who testified Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar were set up has been ruled credible.