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Threats to Free Expression and Challenges for Reform in Southeast Asia

0900–1030, Saturday 16 April 2016, C3

Organiser:
Irene Poetranto
The Citizen Lab, University of Toronto
irene.poetranto@utoronto.ca

Chair:
Irene Poetranto
The Citizen Lab, University of Toronto
irene.poetranto@utoronto.ca

Rapporteur:
Irene Poetranto
The Citizen Lab, University of Toronto
irene.poetranto@utoronto.ca

The rapid growth of digital technology and media in Southeast Asia has facilitated citizens’ engagement and civil society groups’ mobilization. Several governments, however, are responding by clamping down on the use of Internet as a platform for free expression. The Philippines and Thailand, for instance, have enacted laws that threaten online freedom of speech through the Cyber Crime Prevention Act of 2012 and Computer Crimes Act of 2007 respectively, while Myanmar, though undergoing transition, still has draconian laws in the books, such as the Electronic Transactions Law of 2004—the most notorious and frequently used criminal law on communications in Myanmar—which stipulates that the offence of sending an email deemed detrimental to state security carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. Civil society groups have actively campaigned for restrictions such as these to be reduced, or even abolished, and argued for Internet governance that is multistakeholder and underpinned by respect for human rights and democratic values. With elections due to take place in Myanmar in 2015, and the Philippines and (possibly) Thailand in 2016, these tensions are likely to emerge, and is therefore an important issue to discuss. This workshop will feature panelists from Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore, who will discuss the threats to free expression and challenges for reform in their respective countries, and result in a set of policy recommendations for governments and other interested parties.

Agenda:
1. What laws and regulations govern the Internet and social media in the country and how are they implemented?;
2. How do laws and regulations, and infrastructure development facilitate government’s control over the Internet and social media? Are there transparency and accountability on the implementation of controls?;
3. How do these controls affect the security and safety of the Internet’s critical users, such as bloggers, cyber activists, journalists, and human rights defenders? What Internet users, if any, have been targeted for controls and arrests, and on what grounds?;
4. What restrictions are placed on free expression, both off and online?;
5. What steps have civil society groups taken in response? Are there efforts by civil society groups at the regional level to respond to the challenges to free expression?

Deliverables:
Policy recommendations

Organiser:
Irene Poetranto

Irene Poetranto is a researcher and communications officer at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. She has a B.A. in political science and Asia Pacific Studies from the University of British Columbia and an M.A. in political science from the University of Toronto.

Chair:
Irene Poetranto

Irene Poetranto is a researcher and communications officer at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. She has a B.A. in political science and Asia Pacific Studies from the University of British Columbia and an M.A. in political science from the University of Toronto.

 

Participant:
Pirongrong Ramasoota
Chulalongkorn University
pirongrong.r@gmail.com

Pirongrong Ramasoota is Head of the Department of Journalism and Information, at the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University. She is also the Director of the Media Policy Center, a collaborative project between her Faculty and the National Communications Commission of Thailand.
Professor Ramasoota is an expert on media policy and regulations in Thailand. Her insight on the current political situation in Thailand (including the lese majeste law) and its impact on free expression would be invaluable to the panel.

Sinta Dewi Rosadi
University of Padjadjaran
sintadewirosadi@yahoo.com

Sinta Dewi Rosadi is Professor at the Faculty of Law of the Padjadjaran University , Bandung, Indonesia. She has a Ph.D in Law from the Padjadjaran University and her thesis was on Information Privacy Law and Its Model of Regulations for Indonesia.
Professor Rosadi is an expert on cyber law in Indonesia and has been involved in the drafting of or acting as a resource person for the government on the Information Technology Law, Privacy and Data Protection Law, Freedom of Information Law and Convergence Law. Therefore, her participation in the panel would help us better understand the issues in Indonesia.

 

Jamael Jacob
Foundation for Media Alternatives
ubejam@espiv.net

Jamael Jacob is a lawyer (and illustrator) based in the Philippines, specialising in ICT, human rights, and law. He is currently the policy and legal advisor of the Foundation for Media Alternatives, a nonprofit organisation engaged in the promotion of communication rights of marginalised sectors.
Jamael Jacob is currently working on a project with the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto on analyzing Internet governance and information controls (e.g., censorship, filtering, and surveillance) in the Philippines, and therefore will have many insights to share with regard to the situation in the country.