Home national Press freedom still not living up to the law, seminar told
Pravit Rojanaphruk The Nation on Sunday April 28, 2013 1:00 am
Anything negative about resigned Senior General Than Shwe is still taboo in Myanmar’s media, said Aye Chan Naing. He added that the Myanmar government will soon introduce broadcasting laws and it’s not certain as to what kind of restrictions will be made. The country’s judiciary needs to be independent, while the law needs to be just, he said.
In Cambodia, while the constitution guarantees press freedom and freedom of expression, freedom of speech is still limited in reality, said Chhay Sophal, editor-in-chief of Cambodia News Online and a board member of the Cambodian Journalists’ Council for Ethics.
“Legally speaking, the government respects the country’s free press and freedom of expression, but in practice, the public voice is sometimes ignored or accused of being backed by the opposition – an excuse for government authorities to crack down.”
Chhay Sophal said after the nightmare of the Pol Pot regime, the majority of Cambodians, who are farmers living in the rural areas, “seem to be completely debilitated through illiteracy, ignorance or fear of reprisal, and are disinclined to speak out in public, especially on politics.”
“The urban [populace] feels freer and more ready to speak out, mainly on topics regarding the government’s actions,” Chhay Sophal added.
Gayathry Venkitsewaran, executive director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), and a former Malaysian journalist, said Malaysia’s press freedom may improve, but it would depend on the result in the upcoming general election next month.
“If there’s a change in government, it will be a bit chaotic because [the media] will not know how to behave,” Venkiteswaran told the audience in Bangkok last week.
Venkiteswaran said the region’s latest press freedom index by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders indicated there was still a lot to be done, and added that the relatively high ranking for Brunei may reflect a lack of knowledge about the sultanate on the part of the organisation. Helping to develop knowledge of the region’s press was one area where SEAPA could help, he said.