13.04.2018 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

UNESCO and AICHR discuss freedom of expression in Southeast Asia

©UNESCO Jakarta

Participants from different ASEAN countries discussed the issues of disinformation online, safety of journalists, harassment of women online and threats of restrictive laws in the region during the AICHR High Level Dialogue on Managing Freedom of Expression in the Information Age from 11-12 April in Medan, Indonesia.

Dr. Dinna Wisnu, the Representative of Indonesia to AICHR who led the event highlighted the importance of freedom of expression as a fundamental human right and call for ASEAN members to focus on the ways and means to secure freedom of expression while understanding , identifying the potential pitfalls of how we see things and manage this freedom.

Dr. Ming-Kuok LIM, Advisor for Communication and Information of UNESCO Office in Jakarta who spoke on cross-border collaborations, proposed more regional capacity building activities including on international standards on freedom of expression and safety of journalists. He also encouraged participants to collaborate more closely on high visibility event such as World Press Freedom Day on 3 May and the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November.

Furthermore, Dr. Lim encouraged Southeast Asian countries to adapt and replicate the successful massive open online courses (MOOC) on freedom of expression which had trained more than 5000 judges and lawyers in Latin America and Africa since its inception.

Mr. Edmund Bon, the Representative of Malaysia to AICHR, argued that governments in the region should shift the focus to creating laws that actually increases more transparency and access of information rather than the current focus of laws which focus on restriction and limitations that are in reality obstacles to civil societies, law practitioners, and journalists to acquire critical information.

At the conclusion of the forum, the participants produced an outcome document which called for strengthening networking with UN Special Rapporteurs and national human rights commissions, more programmes on media and information literacy programme, and to ensure gender analysis is included in all human rights programme that are planned in the region. It was also stressed several times during the forum that any measure put in place to manage freedom expression cannot be used to stifle the exercising of that human right.

The event was led by the AICHR Indonesia with the support from UNESCO, the Embassy of Switzerland, US. PROGRESS, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is the regional body with the mandate to promote and strengthen human rights in Southeast Asia. AICHR consists of ten Representatives nominated by each of the ASEAN countries and is guided by the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights and the mandate of the Representatives.

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