Across the Asia Pacific region, threats to free expression, particularly online expression, are on the increase. Governments, seeking to maintain power and avoid criticism, have enacted and maintained numerous laws and policies intended to restrict the public’s right to freedom of expression and information. Laws criminalising defamation, prohibiting criticism of the monarchy or state, and restricting media freedom are continually used against members of the public, journalists and human rights defenders. As Internet access has spread across the region, so too have efforts to restrict people’s use of the Internet as a platform for expression and discussion of ideas.
Human rights defenders and journalists working on environmental issues are often particularly at risk, as they challenge the interests of powerful government and business actors, seeking transparency and accountability for rights violations. Media houses and journalists not reporting the government line are also at risk of closure or criminal charges, and journalists face serious threats to their safety when carrying out their work, whether reporting on conflict areas, corruption related to extractive industries and pollution, or other rights violations.
In addition, in several countries across the region religious “hate speech” has been rising, increasing intolerance, and putting the equal enjoyment of rights including freedom of expression at risk.
ARTICLE 19 has worked across the Asia Pacific region for over two decades, with staff stationed across Southeast Asia. Our projects aim to improve protections for journalists and human rights defenders and open up civic space, to fight online censorship, to promote transparency on environmental issues and protect those that promote it, and engage the public in discussions around religious tolerance and hate speech. We do this through a range of advocacy, training, and more specialist projects, as well as producing legal analyses of laws restricting freedom of expression in the region and recommendations for reform.Meet the Team