IFJ Welcomes Press Freedom Commitment at ASEAN

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the formation of the Legislative Caucus on Rights and Free Expression, a new regional body of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as a step toward promoting press freedom and the rights of journalists and the media in Southeast Asia.


The formation of the Caucus was announced at the 14th ASEAN summit in Thailand on February 28.


The members of the group are Cambodian MP Yim Sovann, Indonesian MP Djoko Susilo, Senator Francis Pangilinan and Congressman Teodoro Casino of the Philippines, and Thailand MPs Buranaj Smutharaks and Kraisak Choonhasan.


“We believe that the dream of a true ASEAN Community and the formation of an ASEAN Human Rights Body must recognise free expression, press freedom, and people’s access to information as essential to human rights,” the Caucus said in a statement issued on February 28.


“In the light of these beliefs, we call on ASEAN’s leaders to deliver on a commitment to make the principles embodied in the UN Declaration on Human Rights the minimum standards upon which an independent ASEAN Human Rights Body will be established and activated.”


Press freedom and the safety of journalists in Southeast Asia is a significant concern for the IFJ.


In 2008, nine journalists in the Philippines, four in Thailand and one in Cambodia were killed while conducting their professional work. In 2009, the Philippines has already seen the murder of a radio journalist and the attempted murder of another.


Meanwhile, journalists in Indonesia continue to face threats of imprisonment under archaic criminal defamation laws. A high-profile media advocate and leader of the Coalition of Journalists Against Criminalisation of the Press, Upi Asmaranda, is currently on trial for allegedly “provoking journalists to resist the head of the South Sulawesi Regional Police Office”.


“The IFJ encourages the Legislative Caucus on Rights and Free Expression to take an active role in opening stronger lines of dialogue between Southeast Asian governments and the international human rights and press freedom communities,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.


“The Caucus’s acknowledgement of the UN Declaration of Human Rights as minimum standards for human rights across all countries in Southeast Asia is a positive step.


“The IFJ looks forward to observing implementation of these standards in ASEAN countries, including standards applying to freedom of expression and the rights of journalists to conduct their work without fear of harm or restriction.”


For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919


The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide