Mon 31 Dec 2007
Filed under: News,Regional
Press freedom in Southeast Asian countries has been weakened in 2007, the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (Seapa) said Friday.
Burma deteriorated from its already abysmal position while Singapore widened the scope of its uncompromising media laws to include the new media, just as its citizens were beginning to test the freedom found on the Internet.
Seapa said a similar development has transpired in Malaysia, which is showing signs of backing down from a longstanding promise to never censor the Internet
At the other end of Southeast Asia’s political spectrum, the more liberated countries have seen backsliding on the press freedom front.
The Philippine press has been threatened and charged by the government for everything ranging from “sedition” to “obstruction of justice”.
It has been warned that coverage of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s many critics would be dealt with as criminally contemptuous of government and state.
Indonesia has made some headway in reforming some of its antiquated laws, but this progress has been overshadowed by the uneven, unpredictable, and surprising laws introduced to the detriment of press freedom.
“The country’s promising Press Law remained underutilised, leaving journalists vulnerable under the Criminal Code,” Seapa said.
“Even a newly ratified Constitution and postcoup democratic elections in Thailand could not mask a slew of hastily passed laws under what is supposedly a temporary and selflimited military junta. Some of this legislation could severely undermine human rights and democracy and cast a dark shadow over Thailand’s press and electronic media in particular.”
“Indeed, the passage of laws on “national security” and Internetrelated crimes in Thailand has been a familiar theme in 2007 to all of Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to the Philippines and Malaysia through to Laos.
All highlighted the uncertainties they faced and will continue to face in the coming year,” Seapa said.