9 April 2012


Free expression and law in 2011

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 5 April 2012 - In this statement, ARTICLE 19 highlights the major legal developments, in particular laws and regulations, relating to freedom of expression and the right to information throughout Asia in 2011.


2011 saw both positive and negative trends in Asia Pacific.

On the positive side:
* The Indian government indicated its intention to decriminalise defamation
* Cambodia and Mongolia adopted Right to Information legislation
* Malaysia and Vietnam took steps towards legislation which increased media freedom within their respective countries. However, these laws do not properly reflect international standards on freedom of expression.

On the negative side:
* Public debate and freedom of media continued to be restricted through the use of criminal defamation laws
* Several countries, for example Burma, China and Pakistan, adopted laws restricting the right to freedom of expression on the internet
* National security laws, allegedly enacted with the aim of combating terrorism, continued to restrict freedom of expression. Such laws risk that individuals will censor themselves to avoid disclosing "state secrets"
* Cambodia and Malaysia considered legislation that would significantly limit the right to freedom of assembly.


In 2011, numerous bills regulating the print media were introduced in the region. Most of them fall short of meeting international standards on freedom of expression. For example:


The Malaysian government committed to a review of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (Press Act), intending to amend rather than repeal it in 2011. The planned amendment would replace the requirement for annual renewals of media outlets with a one-off licensing policy. Despite relaxing the media-licensing requirement, the government would still control the distribution of permits to all newspapers, printing presses and publications, thereby effectively controlling media content. The Press Act is fundamentally flawed from a freedom of expression perspective and must be repealed in its entirety.

The Prime Minister of Vietnam issued Decree No. 2 of 2011 on the Administrative Responsibility for Press and Publication Activities ("Decree"), which applies to a wide range of individuals. ARTICLE 19 raised concerns about the Decree:
* it over-regulates, moving into usually self-regulated areas such as the internet and print media.
* It requires the unnecessary registration of the print media and does not adequately protect journalistic sources or journalists from any abuse of administrative powers.

Read the full statement

More from Asia & Pacific


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  • THE STORIES WOMEN JOURNALISTS TELL: Women in Media in South Asia

    The report is the first created by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) looking specifically at the experience of women journalists in the South Asia sub-region

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