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.”
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide