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Is SEA behind? Advocating for Truth and Justice on Inter. Day to End Impunity against journalists!

In this digital age, where information serves as both a source of power and an anchor, let’s direct our attention to the role of journalism. On November 2, we celebrate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, a stark reminder of the disturbing reality that crimes against those who work to unmask injustices and bring them to public eye often remain unpunished.

The Historical Context 📜

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists was established in December 2013, a date elected in remembrance of the tragic assassination of French journalists Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont in Mali on November 2, 2013. This commemoration day acts as a global call to action, urging governments, civil society, and the general public alike to condemn the distressing level of impunity for crimes against journalists worldwide.

Between 2006 and 2023, over 1,600 journalists have been killed around the world, with close to 9 out of 10 cases remaining judicially unresolved, according to the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists. These chilling statistics underscore the urgent need to advocate for better protection on their behalf.

Let’s Take a Closer Look: Challenges in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, significant concerns persist regarding press freedom and the journalists’ safety. With the exception of Malaysia and Timor Leste, the rest of the region’s countries currently sit at the bottom half of the World Press Freedom Index - which measures the degree of journalistic freedom across 180 countries and territories -, namely Vietnam (178th), Myanmar (173rd), Laos (160th), Brunei (142nd), Philippines (132nd), Singapore (129th), Indonesia (108th) and Thailand (106th).

In many cases, press freedom obstructions rest in vague laws that can be easily abused for politically motivated prosecutions, creating a dangerous environment for journalists who often face intimidation, restrictive regulations, and even violence. Dictatorship-ruled nations exercise a particularly strict control over the media and its public discourse. Additionally, there's been a concerning increase in government crackdowns on independent media, especially in the run up to elections. This has been the case of Cambodia, ranked 147th, which prevents journalists from fulfilling their duties in uncovering and reporting abuses of power.

These issues are not just local; they concern regional actors and demand global attention to uphold press freedom and safeguard journalists in Southeast Asia. The Coalition of Press Freedom Monitoring in Southeast Asia shed light on similar challenges tied to the problematic laws within the region. Firstly, the absence of specific provisions regarding data protection and privacy exceptions for journalists might limit investigative journalists’ capabilities, hindering their ability to uncover corruption or public concerns intertwined with personal data, as evidenced in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Second, the implementation of cybercrime laws amplifies internet surveillance, privacy rights violations, and encumbers press freedom.

Identifying Structural Issues: Bolstering Journalists through Systemic Change!

The fear of reprisal is not just a shadow lurking over journalists; it's the chilling silence that threatens civic space and democracies. But there's hope in the movement, and it demands systemic change.

Find here 5 key strategies:

  1. 🛡 Provide Protection: Governments and media organizations must offer protection to journalists at risk, enclosing physical and legal protection, guaranteeing journalists are free from surveillance spywares such as pegasus, and big data collection. In this digital age, digital security must be a priority.

  2. 📢 Raise Awareness: Public advocacy, through campaigns, training programs, or educational initiatives, can help inform the public about press freedom and journalistic threats while mitigating fears of reprisal.

  3. 📚 Strengthen Legal Frameworks: Governments should establish robust and effective legislation to ensure adequate protection and accountability for those who commit crimes against journalists. At this stage, many governments in Southeast Asia weaponize the law to suppress press freedom, subjecting journalists to attacks rather than offering them protection. To achieve this, states must enact laws designed to protect journalists and establish specialized units within law enforcement agencies dedicated to investigating such crimes.

  4. 🌐 International Cooperation: Collaborative efforts on an international scale are essential to ensure that perpetrators of crimes against journalists face the consequences of their actions. Governments should work together to investigate and prosecute these crimes, especially when carried out by authoritarian regimes or in the context of resource exploitation. To this end, international organizations must provide assistance and resources for evidence-based advocacy, research, and monitoring.

  5. 📊Monitoring and Reporting: Monitoring and comprehensive data reporting on the state of press freedom and journalists’ safety worldwide are key to ensuring positive and sustainable change. This data also facilitates in-depth investigations into particular matters, such as attacks on journalists or murder cases, too often left unreported. By establishing precise criteria such as nationality, gender, media affiliation, or employment status, these databases could determine the level of risk faced by journalists in a given country or area, supporting investigations on both a national and regional scale.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is a solemn occasion to honor and protect those who risk their lives to keep us informed! Journalists play a central part in sustaining democracy, stressing the imperative to end impunity for crimes perpetrated against them. Through raising awareness, strengthening legal protections, providing support, and fostering international cooperation, we can collectively strive to establish a global framework that prioritizes the safety of journalists as they carry out their missions. 🌐🤝💪

At Manushya Foundation, we stand in solidarity with every independent journalist in their fight for press freedom and free expression. Let's stand up for truth and justice not just on November 2, but every day, as only with a free and fearless press can we work towards true democracy and regional stability!

#WeAreManushyan ♾ Equal Human Beings


🔥 While you’re here, discover our work on online democracy and digital rights by building the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship, shaping our digital future including press freedom as a fundamental right to a true democratic society. ⤵️


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