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INDONESIA: Media 'action plan' for Southeast Asia


Indonesian journalists in Jakarta wore masks on World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2016, in protest of the ongoing media violations. Image: News.CN

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Item: 9756

JAKARTA (DW Akademie/Pacific Media Watch): Experts from Southeast Asian nations have identified key challenges facing media in their region. They propose three concrete areas of action for civil society, governments and the media.

The expert 19 member group included researchers, media professionals and human rights defenders forming the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Representatives from Timor Leste and Mongolia were also present.

'Jakarta conclusions'

DW Akademie, an organisation that supports the development of international media, reported the experts agreed on a three-step action plan called the "Jakarta Conclusions" which is aimed to enhance the situation for media in Southeast Asia.

The plan will require the collective efforts of civil society, media organisations and governments.

Jakarta Conclusions Action Plan:

  1. Take steps to develop a special regional mechanism to improve the media environment based on existing international and regional models.
  2. Create a process to engage the large global Internet intermediaries to address issues of access, accountability, sustainability, and the impact these companies have on media and society.
  3. Promote programs to expand media and information literacy at sufficient scale to have impact at the societal level

According to the report Southeast Asian media environments are among the most restricted in the world. With the exception of Timor Leste, Southeast Asian countries all rank in the bottom third of Reporter Without Borders 2016 World Press Freedom Index, with Vietnam and Laos the worst offenders ranking 173 and 175 respectively out of 180. 

See Asia Pacific Report for the full action plan. 

 

"Governments feel uncomfortable when only the situation in their own country is being checked or scrutinized," explained Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in the Philippines. "A regional dialogue can help to make the road a bit easier to travel toward press freedom," she said. (DW Akademie/Pacific Media Watch): Experts from nine Southeast Asian nations have identified key challenges facing media in their region. They propose three concrete areas of action for civil society, governments and the media.
 
recently gathered for a regional consultation organized by the US-based Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and Germany's DW Akademie. The consultation took place on the sidelines of the 2016 Jakarta World Forum for Media Development.  
 
 
The expert group included researchers, media professionals and human rights defenders from eight out of the ten countries forming the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Representatives from Timor Leste and Mongolia were also present. 
 
 
 
The three-step Jakarta Conclusions
 
The experts agreed on a three-step action plan called the the "Jakarta Conclusions", which aims to enhance the situation for media in Southeast Asia. The plan will require the collective efforts of civil society, media organizations and governments.
 
Jakarta Conclusions Action Plan:
1. Take steps to develop a special regional mechanism to improve the media environment based on existing international and regional models.
2. Create a process to engage the large global Internet intermediaries to address issues of access, accountability, sustainability, and the impact these companies have on media and society.
3. Promote programs to expand media and information literacy at sufficient scale to have impact at the societal level.
 
1. Develop a regional mechanism for Southeast Asia
 
This was the most vividly discussed topic: Southeast Asia does not have a special rapporteur for freedom of expression – whereas Latin America, Africa and Europe have active and independent representatives who advocate for information, expression and media rights.
 
Several experts bemoaned that the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights has not been moving on this issue. "We are missing mechanisms that provide us with protection and accountability," said Hugo Maria Fernandes from the Press Council of Timor Leste. 
 
During the consultation, representatives from civil society organizations suggested establishing an informal mechanism in the absence of government support.
 
"At the moment the burden of human rights defense does not have to be carried by only one person. But we could have several champions coming from different countries working on these issues," Melinda Quintos de Jesus said.
 
Others, however, advocated to continue to push for an official mechanism, pointing out that Southeast Asia could learn from the Arab world which is currently seeking to establish a freedom of expression special rapporteur. 
 
2. Engage the large global Internet intermediaries
 
This second point refers to Internet companies such as Google and Facebook who take a large share of online advertising revenue in Southeast Asia but do little to counter the spread of online hate speech, propaganda and disinformation. The experts suggested encouraging these platforms to develop a pricing system which differentiates between general information and quality journalism. 
 
3. Promote programs to expand media and information literacy
 
The attendees also emphasised the growing importance of critical media users – hence media and information literacy is the third area of proposed action. Hugo Maria Fernandes from Timor Leste said such programs should be broad-based and include all actors from government to civil society. 
 
These initiatives should "enable our growing populations to actively and consciously use media based on the knowledge that we already have in the region," he said.
 
Such an approach should also include a strategy against discrimination and hate speech, a global phenomenon that is also of increasing concern in the ASEAN region. 
 
"For example, we have growing problems with certain religious groups trying to impose their views over other groups," said Eko Maryadi, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Southeast Asian Press Alliance.
 
 
 
This list of challenges was compiled by a group of 19 Southeast Asian media experts who recently gathered for a regional consultation organized by the US-based Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and Germany's DW Akademie. The consultation took place on the sidelines of the 2016 Jakarta World Forum for Media Development.  
 
 
 
 
 
The media in Southeast Asia face a host of issues, foremost of which are government censorship, the concentration of ownership, the lack of political support for free media, violence against journalists and the abuse of libel and defamation laws. While social media offers new opportunities for access to information and participation, it can also be used to spread rumors, propaganda and misleading information. 
 
Although these countries differ in their cultures, histories and political systems, those attending identified a common need for regional exchange and multi-stakeholder processes to improve Southeast Asian media environments, which are among the most restricted in the world. With the exception of Timor Leste, Southeast Asian countries all rank in the bottom third of Reporter without Borders' 2016 World Press Freedom Index, with Vietnam and Laos the worst offenders ranking 173 and 175 respectively out of 180. 
 
"Governments feel uncomfortable when only the situation in their own country is being checked or scrutinized," explained Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in the Philippines. "A regional dialogue can help to make the road a bit easier to travel toward press freedom," she said. 

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