By ALYSSA ME CLARIN
CAMBODIA — Six media groups from five Southeast Asian countries formed a regional collaboration to strengthen their fight against the deteriorating state of press freedom in the region.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists from Indonesia (AJI) partnered with the National Union of the Philippines, Cambodian Journalist Alliance (CamboJA), the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Gerakan Media Merdeka (GeramM) of Malaysia, and the Journalist Association Timor Leste (AJTL) for this regional collaboration.
The collaboration was launched on Dec. 12 in a conference following the commemoration of International Human Rights Day. This was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,
Its theme: “Strengthening collaboration, defending press freedom in Southeast Asia,” embodies the commitment of the organizations to fight against the impunity campaigns being used to target independent journalists in the Southeast Asian region.
According to the 2022 Impunity Index released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Philippines and Myanmar are among the eleven countries considered to be the worst in pursuing journalist killers.
The press freedom rankings of most Southeast Asian countries are also above the 100 countries in ‘dangerous situations,’ based on the released report of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
With the exception of Timor Leste, Myanmar has the lowest ranking, followed by the Philippines at 147th and Cambodia at 142nd. Other countries are placed higher, although still under 100 in rankings– Indonesia is at 117th, Thailand is at 115th, and Malaysia places the highest at 113th.
There is also a similar trend of attacks in the region, as all six organizations have reported experiencing increasing pressure from their respective governments through the passing of laws that infringe on their right to publish, as well as the increasing number of digital attacks.
In their report, the NUJP highlighted how perpetrators utilized the Philippine legal system to intimidate and silence journalists.
“Two of our colleagues — Darcie De Galicia and Noel Alamar – are facing 941 counts of cyber libel. If the complaints go to trial, they may have to pay a bail of around $188,200,” shared De Santos during the panel session.
De Santos also mentioned how Eastern Vista’s Frenchie Mae Cumpio remains behind bars over trumped-up charges relating to terrorism, while community journalist Anne Krueger’s plea to quash the evidence against her, which she said was planted during her arrest in 2019, was recently denied.
“We are confident that our regional conference today will be a huge step towards the solidarity and mutual support that communities in Southeast Asia need,” added De Santos. (JJE)