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Violence against media widespread in Southeast Asian "democracies", says SEAPA report

Impunity, censorship and violence against journalists were rampant in the so-called established "democracies" of Southeast Asia in 2010, says "Caught in the Crossfire", a new report by the Southeast Asian Press Association (SEAPA). This trend will most likely continue into 2011, adds SEAPA.

Thailand was SEAPA's focus of attention in 2010, mainly due to media being caught in the crossfire between the military and the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), popularly known as the "Red Shirts". During the political crisis, 91 people died, including two journalists, and 400,000 websites were blocked. While the emergency decree was lifted in December, there are still questions about whether the media will be able to operate freely in the post-conflict period, says SEAPA.

Similarly, in the Philippines, there is doubt that the new administration under President Benigno Aquino III will deliver on promises to end impunity. Following the August 2010 hostage crisis in Manila, in which nine people died, politicians are considering regulations to restrict the role and movement of the media in similar situations.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, as many as 47 cases of violence against journalists were recorded, including one reporter who was killed in Southeast Maluku. Apparently, the Ministry of Defence is backing plans for a new secrecy law.

"The outlook for the year 2011 is generally not encouraging as there is little sign of political will to address impunity by the governments in the region or to endorse and push for media reforms," says SEAPA. Worse still, with elections expected in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia this year, governments are further restricting media and flow of information, says SEAPA.

Read "Caught in the Crossfire: Southeast Asia's Press Freedom Challenges for 2011", here.

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