IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, THE INTERNET IS NO LONGER A FREE, SAFE AND SECURE SPACE FOR EXPRESSION.
Weaponizing or misusing laws, policies and actions, governments in the region are monitoring the internet, to censor any information seen as a threat or criticism of the government and its policies.
Internet providers and tech companies are also being forced to assist governments in online surveillance and information takedowns. These have an effect of creating an environment of fear and self-censorship in these countries.
THREAT & INTIMIDATION
PROSECUTION & PUNISHMENT
With violations to online freedom, online privacy, and access to information; democracy is being lost to authoritarianism. Now more than ever, it is important to join forces to fight against digital authoritarianism in Southeast Asia.
Through this campaign, we will:
highlight the legal challenges to digital rights in ASEAN, while presenting their impact on netizens
propose strategies to fight back digital dictatorship as shared by leading voices working on the ground
ASEAN COMMON CALL TO ACTION:
#StopDigitalDictatorship in Southeast Asia!
To restore our online democracy in Southeast Asia, a ‘Common Call to Action’ emerged among Manushya Foundation’s partners calling on all governments to address 5 of the biggest challenges to digital rights. This is the first step in bringing together ASEAN community leaders working for digital rights on the ground, to amplify our collective goal and build momentum in the fight against rising digital dictatorship by governments in the region.
End of 2020, we officially launched a Campaign to #StopDigitalDictatorship in Southeast Asia to fight against rising digital dictatorship in the region, where the internet is no longer a free, safe, and secure space for expression. Founded and coordinated by Manushya Foundation, the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship brings together local and regional voices, including the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), ALTSEAN-Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights, ELSAM (Indonesia), Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA, Philippines), ILGA Asia (Asian Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), SAFEnet, and Women’s Peace Network (Myanmar). We work together in the ASEAN to:
Denounce rights violations taking place in the digital space and provide governments, policy-makers, businesses, and civil society with key recommendations to uphold online freedom of expression and privacy rights. We do so via joint statements, research and analysis to inform UN human rights reviews and UN Special Procedures thematic reports, joint research on emerging digital rights issues, and joint campaigns to hold governments and businesses into account.
We raise awareness and build capacity on digital rights via joint webinars, joint online workshops, and by joining international digital rights forums to tell the world what’s happening in our digital space in Southeast Asia.
Join our campaign and take a look at work done by the ASEAN Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship !
OVERVIEW OF DIGITAL RIGHTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
With civic space in Southeast Asia being threatened by governments, the internet and social media started to be used by human rights defenders, activists, journalists and civil society as a free space to share their opinion on their governments and to hold them accountable. Governments responded by using a set of laws and policies to stop and punish the sharing of information critical of the government, using the justification of protecting ‘national security’. This leads to the silencing of dissents and the practice of self-censorship even in cyberspace.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, online civic space was further restricted with
the use of emergency laws to restrict sharing of opinions of the COVID-19 response or situation in countries
internet shutdowns being a barrier to access information related to health risks
Check our 'SPOTLIGHTS' on specific ASEAN countries, providing an overview of the anti-democratic laws and policies, and impacts of authoritarianism on digital rights and democracy
CHECK OUR JOINT WEBINARS ON THE MOST PRESSING DIGITAL RIGHTS ISSUES IN ASEAN
INTERNET SHUTDOWNS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA BEFORE AND DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
On Monday, 2 August 2021, the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship held a webinar with the topic “Can We Live Without the Internet? Internet Shutdowns in Southeast Asia Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. This webinar discussed one of the most salient problems in our digital age: internet shutdowns.
During the session, leading voices working on the ground in Southeast Asia shared how several governments in Southeast Asia have disrupted internet connectivity or even cut off internet access prior to and amid the pandemic to crack down on free expression and control the flow of information. The implementation of internet shutdowns has been seen in Indonesia and Myanmar in recent years, restricting people’s digital rights and putting their lives in danger.
BANGKOK, Thailand - On 9 June 2021, the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship, led by ALTSEAN-Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), ELSAM, Manushya Foundation, PEN International, and SAFEnet, hosted a Talk Show “Online Freedom under attack: Weaponizing misinformation, disinformation and ‘fake news’ for censorship in Southeast Asia” as a part of #RightsCon 2021 to discuss the weaponization of state-sponsored disinformation and the so-called fight against ‘fake news’ to silence critical voices, by sharing how governments are abusing laws and the COVID-19 pandemic to crack down on critics, restrict online freedom and infringe on the right to privacy in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand. During the Talk Show, leading voices and #DigitalRights Defenders discussed challenges and provided human-centred solutions to build solidarity and protect the digital space from authoritarian attacks.
WEBINAR - WHRDs IN THE DIGITAL SPACE: REALITIES & SOLUTIONS TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER FREELY
BANGKOK, Thailand - On 25 March 2021, the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship led by ALTSEAN Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), ELSAM, Manushya Foundation, PEN Myanmar, and SAFEnet, hosted a live webinar “Women Human Rights Defenders in the Digital Space: Realities & Solutions to Speak Truth to Power Freely” to discuss the challenges women human rights defenders have faced online and how they found a way to fight back, resist and respond to it.
Access the summary of the conversation here.
WEBINAR - MYANMAR'S DIGITAL COUP: WHAT CAN WE DO TO RESIST?
On 18 February 2021, the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship led by ALTSEAN Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), ELSAM, Manushya Foundation, PEN Myanmar, and SAFEnet, hosted the “Myanmar’s Digital Coup: What can we do to resist?” live webinar to discuss the digital dictatorship imposed on netizens, media outlets, internet service providers and social media platforms by the military coup in Myanmar.
Access the summary of the conversation here.
On 31 July 2020, Manushya Foundation and PEN international hosted a panel session titled, 'Will democracy survive ‘national security’ in the digital space of Southeast Asia?' at RightsCon 2020.
During the session, leading voices working on the ground in Southeast Asia shared how civic space in this region is being threatened by governments misusing 'national security' to pass anti-democratic laws and restrict online freedom, while pressuring tech companies to assist them in online surveillance.
CHECK OUR JOINT SOLIDARITY STATEMENTS TO RESTORE OUR ONLINE DEMOCRACY & SUPPORT OUR FRIENDS CRIMINALIZED BY THE WEAPONIZATION OF CYBER LAWS!
JOINT SOLIDARITY STATEMENTS
Dear Indonesia: Wadas Villagers have the right to protest and to access the internet!
On 14 February 2022, Manushya Foundation, ALTSEAN-Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Institute of Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), and Women’s Peace Network (Myanmar) as the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship stand in solidarity with the andesite mine protesters of Wadas Village, Central Java, Indonesia. The protests are a legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly by the local residents, and should therefore be protected by the law. We condemn the Indonesian authorities’ violent response which took place on 8-9 February 2022, and the arbitrary arrests of Wadas Village residents and citizen journalists. The authorities must stop investigation of three residents on allegations of spreading hoaxes which disrupt public order, given that they were merely reporting real events which took place during the unrest. We also call for an immediate investigation into the indication of an internet shutdown in Wadas Village, and denounce any attempt to limit internet access and restrict the free flow of and access to information online within the area.
Indonesia: Government should end the judicial harassment and immediately withdraw arbitrary charges against defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar
On 23 September 2021, Manushya Foundation and the endorsing organizations call on the Indonesian government to amend all repressive laws and legal provisions that hinder the protection of freedom of expression, and ensure the laws align with international human rights standards. The criminalization of defamation is an inherently disproportionate and unnecessary restriction to the right to freedom of opinion and expression, under international human rights law. Indonesia must immediately drop the charges against Fatia and Haris and take steps towards preventing the misuse of litigation against human rights defenders and civil society that erode the exercise of their rights.
Indonesia: Stop Abusing Cyberlaw and Criminal Defamation to Harass Human Rights Defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar & to Stop Them from Speaking Truth to Power
On 21 September 2021, Manushya Foundation, Access Now, ALTSEAN-Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Institute of Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), PEN International, and Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), as the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship, stand in solidarity with the human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti, Coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), and Haris Azhar, Executive Director of Lokataru. We call for immediate action to ensure Indonesian authorities do not abuse Indonesia’s criminal defamation and cyber laws to harass and silence these human rights defenders, who exercised their right to freedom of expression to unveil the realities behind the Indonesian military involvement in the gold mining industry in the Blok Wabu area of Sugapa District, Intan Jaya Regency, Papua Province.
Thailand: Stop Weaponizing 'COVID-19' to Censor Information “Causing Fear” and Crack Down on Media and Internet Service Providers
On 4 August 2021, Manushya Foundation, Access Now, ALTSEAN-Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Institute of Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), PEN International, and Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) as the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship, stand in solidarity with independent media, civil society and internet service providers in Thailand and call for an immediate repeal of the Regulation No. 29, requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to check the IP addresses of online users who post any news or information that ‘may create fear among the people’ concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and to suspend their internet services. We condemn the administration of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s ongoing digital dictatorship, which threatens online freedoms and hinders independent media from revealing the truth behind #WhatsHappeningInThailand.
Indonesia: Call on Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to Suspend the Implementation of Permenkominfo No. 5/2020 (MR5/2020)
On 28 May 2021, Manushya Foundation and the undersigned organizations call on Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to repeal Ministerial Regulation 5/2020 (MR5) that is deeply problematic, granting government authorities overly broad powers to regulate online content, access user data, and penalize companies that fail to comply.
Laos: The Lao Government Must Stop Online Surveillance and Mandatory Registration of Social Media Platforms
On 28 May 2021, Manushya Foundation, Access Now, ALTSEAN-Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Institute of Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), PEN International, and Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) as the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship, stand in solidarity with independent media and citizen journalism in Laos. We call for an immediate repeal of a recent order for provinces to keep records of official social media channels and to enforce social media registration, as well as an end of an online monitoring special taskforce, aimed at controlling the spread of “fake news” concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. We condemn the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) Government for its attempt to impose a digital dictatorship on the rights and freedom of Lao people and free media to prevent them from critical reporting and free expression.
On 2 February 2021, ALTSEAN-Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Institute of Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), Manushya Foundation, PEN Myanmar, and Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), as the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship released a Joint Solidarity Statement to #SaveMyanmar and #StopDigitalDictatorship in the country.
Thailand: Stop Digital Dictatorship Over Online Freedom
On 25 October 2020, Manushya Foundation, Access Now, ALTSEAN-Burma, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Institute of Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), PEN Myanmar, and Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) released a joint solidarity statement calling on the Thai government to end its control over the digital space by attacking media freedom, tech companies and anyone telling the truth about pro-democracy protests online.
JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN!
Join Manushya Foundation and our Southeast Asia partners as we champion a free, safe & secure internet for all!
Join our campaign and fight against digital dictatorship in Southeast Asia by sharing our posts using #StopDigitalDictatorship on social media and tagging us so we can add you to the campaign
Take a picture with our designed hashtag #StopDigitalDictatorship that you can find above and share it on social media
Use the hashtag #StopDigitalDictatorship in social media posts that highlight the violation of digital rights in Southeast Asia, to show rising digital authoritarianism in the region
Download the Campaign Concept Note and share it to help fighting against rising digital dictatorship!