The Southeast Asian Press Alliance has asked journalists across the Southeast Asian region to share their thoughts about press freedom; and these were uploaded online as part of the campaign to promote and protect free speech. The views expressed by many reporters highlighted the continuing challenges and even growing difficulties faced by the press in the region. The campaign also reminded us that journalists are effective advocates; and that supporting their cause will benefit the whole society.
We begin with Win Tin, Myanmar's longest-held political prisoner and veteran journalist who died last month. He was released from detention after almost two decades and continued to push for democratic reforms, including media freedom, until his death.
Cambodia's Ghep Navin asserted the need to ensure the safety of journalists
East Timor's Argentina Cardoso wrote how media serves the public interest
Thailand's Pirongrong Ramasoota focused on the role of media in the promotion of truth and transparency:
Myanmar's Nai Nai warned against self-censorship:
Rhaydz Barcia is worried over the media killings in the Philippines:
Malaysia's Koh Jun Lin compared the free press with the boy who shouted that the ‘emperor has no clothes':
Myanmar's Thu Rein Hlaing said that media is the oxygen of democracy:
Melani Indra Hapsari from Indonesia underscored the need to report both the good and bad news:
Every country needs press freedom. Press is the watchdog of government. I can't imagine how I can work without press freedom. I am as a journalist can see myself and other journalists as ‘agents’ of social control by giving important news to audience. Every journalist must work without any pressure, fear, threat, or violence. Journalists must work in press freedom to freely report good and bad news including news about government corruption, bad policy, or other important things that the audience needs to know. Press freedom brings benefit for the country and the region. It encourages democracy, good governance, and good society.
Freedom should come with responsibility, according to Prakaidao Bangsunti from Thailand:
Press freedom is important in any country to make people take control of their human rights, which make each person equal. But in some countries like Thailand, we have a situation where there is too much of a gap between rich and poor that has also led to polarized politics. So that we have a problem about too much freedom, and so many people from both sides using hate speech. In this way, freedom should also come with responsibility.
Zaw Naing Oo is hopeful that more people will be involved in the fight for a free media in Myanmar:
People are all now walking with limited freedom of press in our hand. I say “limited” because journalists are still threatened by the authorities. This means we are not really free.
But, no matter how the oppressors restrict the people, press freedom will eventually usher people toward the right path and become the platform to better lives. Myanmar might just be that example.
May Thittara from Cambodia was not deterred when he received a ‘warning’ over an investigative report:
Press freedom is very important for me as a journalist. In my country when an investigative report that I wrote was printed out, I received a warning letter, even though I did not do wrong on my article. They just wanted to scare me to stop writing about the sensitive story. I need press freedom, I want to have my right to write my own stories freely.
* As of this writing the website of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance is down. Here's the link for further information about the group.