[Reuters] ASEAN should rethink non-interference policy amid Myanmar crisis, Malaysia FM says

24 October 2021

Published October 21, 2021 – https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/asean-should-rethink-non-interference-policy-amid-myanmar-crisis-malaysia-fm-2021-10-21/

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 (Reuters) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should rethink its decades-long policy of non-interference in the affairs of member states, amid a worsening human rights crisis in Myanmar, Malaysia’s top diplomat said on Thursday.

The 10-member bloc on Friday made an unprecedented move to exclude the leader of Myanmar’s junta from an upcoming regional summit, over a lack of progress on a peace plan it agreed to with ASEAN in April. A non-political figure from Myanmar will be invited instead.

The decision – which sources said was pushed by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines – was a rare bold step for ASEAN, which has traditionally favoured consensus and engagement over criticism of member nations. read more

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said ASEAN should do some “soul-searching” on its non-interference policy, given deteriorating conditions in Myanmar, where more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in a crackdown on strikes and demonstrations since a Feb. 1 coup.

“I reminded the meeting (on Friday) that ASEAN is about 10 member states. As much as the issue in Myanmar is local and national, it has an impact on the region, and we should also recognise the concerns of the other nine member states,” he told a virtual dialogue on human rights in Myanmar.

“And I also stated the fact that we cannot use the principle of non-interference as a shield to avoid issues being addressed,” he said, in a rare critique by an ASEAN foreign minister of one of the most valued parts of the bloc’s code.

Saifuddin said non-interference had contributed to ASEAN’s inability to make effective decisions quickly, and suggested a move towards a new policy of constructive engagement or non-indifference.

A junta spokesman has blamed ASEAN’s decision on “foreign intervention”, including by the United States and European Union. read more

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Martin Petty


[CNBC] Nobel Peace Prize goes to journalists Maria Ressa, Dmitry Muratov for work on freedom of expression

10 October 2021

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/08/2021-nobel-peace-prize-goes-to-maria-ressa-dmitry-muratov.html

PUBLISHED FRI, OCT 8 2021 5:05 AM EDT | UPDATED FRI, OCT 8 2021 10:46 AM EDT

Chloe Taylor

  • Maria Ressa is founder, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, an online news outlet covering the policies and actions of President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime in the Philippines.
  • Dmitry Muratov is editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper that publishes critical coverage of the Kremlin.

The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.

The Nobel committee praised Ressa and Muratov for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.”

“They are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” it said in a press release following the announcement Friday.

Ressa is founder, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, an online news outlet covering the policies and actions of President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime in the Philippines.

The Nobel committee said she “uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines.”

Muratov is editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper that publishes critical coverage of the Kremlin. Novaya Gazeta, co-founded by Muratov in 1993, is renowned for in-depth exposes of power abuses, human rights abuses and corruption under the Russian regime.

Both Ressa and Muratov have faced attempts by their respective governments to silence their publications.

Ressa and Rappler

In November 2018, Filipino authorities accused Ressa and Rappler of tax evasion, claiming the government had enough evidence to indict her.

Authorities had claimed that year that foreign investment into Rappler amounted to prohibited foreign control of a media company, an accusation denied by the organization. In 2019, the Philippines’ Court of Appeals rejected Rappler’s appeal against the claims.

Rappler was banned from covering official presidential events in 2018, with a presidential spokesperson saying Duterte had “lost trust” in the publication.

Rappler continues to operate, with Ressa telling the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2018 that the government’s action against her website was “a politicized decision aimed at stifling critical coverage.” 

Muratov and Novaya Gazeta

Meanwhile, Novaya Gazeta was praised by the Nobel committee on Friday for its coverage of a range of topics, including police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and “troll factories,” as well as the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia. It added that six of its journalists have been murdered for carrying out their work, and the publication has been met with harassment, threats and violence.

“Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy,” the Nobel committee said. “He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism.”

Kremlin response

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that the Russian government congratulated Muratov for winning the Nobel prize.

“He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented, he is brave,” he said, according to Reuters.

The Nobel committee said that the peace prize was awarded to Ressa and Muratov to reflect the importance of freedom of expression and information.

“Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda,” it said. “These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.”

The Nobel Peace Prize, which includes 10 million Swedish krona ($1.14 million), will be awarded to Ressa and Muratov at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10.

There were 329 nominees for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, 234 of which were individuals and 95 were organizations.

Neither the names of the nominators or the nominees are disclosed until 50 years after the prize is awarded. Only those who meet strict criteria — such as members of the International Court of Justice or Nobel Peace Prize laureates — are permitted to submit nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The 2021 prize had the third-highest number of nominees ever.


[Straits Times – Opinion] Forum: Concerns arise from misunderstanding of Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill (reply by Ministry of Home Affairs)

2 October 2021

PUBLISHED OCT 2, 2021, 12:00 AM SGThttps://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/forum/forum-concerns-arise-from-misunderstanding-of-foreign-interference-countermeasures

Mr Harpreet Singh Nehal expressed some concerns on the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill (Anti-foreign interference Bill – 3 areas of concern, Sept 28).

Mr Singh’s concerns arise from a basic misunderstanding of the Bill and its provisions.

He says that the broad language of the Bill may capture “perfectly legitimate collaborative activity” undertaken by Singapore citizens and non-governmental organisations, which seek to “influence and improve” our laws and policies.

He also says that directions under Part 3 of the Bill could be issued against “legitimate online activity”, even in the absence of any manipulation or influence by a foreign government or its agents.

These assertions are quite inaccurate.

The Bill does not apply to Singaporeans discussing issues, or advocating any matter (regardless of what the Government or anyone else thinks about that).

The Bill will also not cover the vast array of collaborations between Singaporeans and foreigners, on many matters.

However, if a Singaporean acts on behalf of a foreign principal, and if such actions are contrary to public interest, then directions can be issued to such a person.

One example of this would be if a foreign government agency pays a Singaporean to conduct an online campaign, to create discord and unrest among Singaporeans. Such modus operandi have been repeatedly used around the world.

If the above involves covert activity, the persons involved can be prosecuted.

The philosophy underpinning the Bill is a longstanding one – we should not allow foreign subversion of our country and society.

The Bill complements our existing legislation, by providing a targeted and calibrated approach to be used against hostile information campaigns, conducted by foreign agencies and foreigners.

More information on the Bill can be found on the Ministry of Home Affairs’ website: https://www.mha.gov.sg/mediaroom/press-releases/first-reading-of-foreign…

Mr Singh also says that the Bill restricts the role of the Singapore courts to review some actions.

The offences in the Bill relating to criminal conduct are all required to be prosecuted in the courts.

For directions against hostile information campaigns, the oversight will be by a tribunal, headed by a Supreme Court Judge.

Such provisions are not new, and exist in several pieces of legislation.

The matters to be considered in the issuance of directions, (including information obtained through intelligence) may often have to be kept highly confidential.

The courts have also recognised, on several occasions, including in the Nagaenthran case (which Mr Singh refers to), that the judicial process may not be best suited to deal with such issues. Instead, as stated earlier, a tribunal headed by a High Court judge will deal with these matters.

Sam Tee
Senior Director, Joint Operations Group
Ministry of Home Affairs


[Straits Times – Opinion] Anti-foreign interference Bill – a sharper tool for the digital age [by Ong Keng Yong and Stanley Lai]

2 October 2021

PUBLISHED OCT 1, 2021, 5:00 AM SGT – https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/anti-foreign-interference-bill-a-sharper-tool-for-the-digital-age

A rebuttal to points raised about over-broad language and restrictions on courts’ role

We refer to the article “Anti-foreign interference Bill – 3 areas of concern” by Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal in The Straits Times on Tuesday. We wish to share our perspectives on the subject and respond to some of the points he makes.

Mr Singh makes two primary points in his articulation of concerns about the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (Fica).

First, he says the Bill suffers from “extremely broad language” and risks capturing “perfectly legitimate collaborative activities” undertaken by Singapore citizens and local non-governmental organisations.

Second, he says that the Bill “restricts the role of the Singapore courts to review the legality of the Government’s exercise of powers”. Instead, appeals against Part 3 directions provided for under the Bill are made to a reviewing tribunal, which is governed by its own procedural rules.

We do not agree with his interpretation of the Bill.

As regards the “broad language” of Fica, we do not see how the examples of “legitimate” collaborations with foreigners referred to by Mr Singh in his article can be proscribed under the Bill. (He cites public policy issues such as climate change and women’s rights).

One of the key purposes of the Bill is the protection of the public interest. It includes countermeasures against hostile information campaigns on electronic platforms.

However, before the powers under the Bill can be invoked, the following conditions must be met: First, there is an online communications activity, or planning for such an activity. Second, the activity is conducted by or on behalf of a foreign principal. Third, it must be determined that it is in the public interest for a direction (provided in the Bill) to be issued.

The Bill prescribes a statutory regimen requiring a foreign element, and it also must be considered necessary to protect the public interest against this foreign interference.

For the rest of the article, please visit https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/anti-foreign-interference-bill-a-sharper-tool-for-the-digital-age


[Straits Times – Opinion] Anti-foreign interference Bill – 3 areas of concern (by Harpreet Singh Nehal)

2 October 2021

PUBLISHED SEP 28, 2021, 5:00 AM SGT – https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/anti-foreign-interference-bill-3-areas-of-concern

The Fica Bill as currently drafted is problematic because of its extremely broad language, restrictions on judicial review and questionable procedural rules.

The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill (Fica) was recently introduced in Parliament. It seeks to reduce the risk of acts of foreign interference by strengthening the Government’s ability to prevent, detect and disrupt such interference.

The Bill creates new offences which target clandestine online activity. It also imposes substantial financial reporting obligations on politically significant persons, as well as obligations on parties providing social media services and online content.

Foreign interference is a matter of growing concern, especially for small states, in a fast-changing geopolitical context where significant players are seeking to strengthen their reach and carve out spheres of influence. Any responsible government needs to be adequately equipped to protect the public interest by counteracting such acts of foreign interference.

The challenge is to craft balanced legislation that effectively addresses undesirable foreign influence while not curtailing legitimate citizen-led activity. Here are three aspects of the Bill which give cause for grave concern.

For the rest of the article, please visit https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/anti-foreign-interference-bill-3-areas-of-concern


[Greenpeace SEA] Online Submission of the CSO Briefing Paper on Ratifying and Implementing ILO Convention 188 in ASEAN Member States to ASEAN Secretariat

30 September 2021

We have attached a copy of Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Briefing Paper on Ratifying and Implementing ILO Convention 188 in ASEAN Member States and the cover email below. Please click on the link to download a copy of the report.


Dear ASEAN Secretariat,

In October last year, Greenpeace Southeast Asia (GPSEA) started developing the Briefing Paper on Ratifying and Implementing ILO Convention 188 in ASEAN Member States. We also initiated email correspondence and virtual consultation meetings with the respective sectoral bodies: ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW), and the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crimes (SOMTC). Alongside this, workshops were conducted to align views with fellow civil society organisations (CSO) and trade union colleagues. 

The briefing paper is jointly submitted by 18 CSOs and trade unions and endorsed by 6 organisations, with the aim of having ASEAN member states join us to fight modern slavery at sea together at the regional level.

It is very unfortunate that none of the AICHR, ACMW, and SOMTC Brunei Darussalam leaders are able to join us in the online launch event due to other commitments. Nevertheless, we are submitting the briefing paper online by way of this email. Please find this document attached.

We really hope that this briefing paper will mark the beginning of further discussions and collaborations between CSOs, trade unions, and ASEAN to combat modern slavery at sea. Therefore, we are looking forward to hearing your response and views on the matter. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Joint-Submitters

Asosiasi Pekerja Perikanan Indonesia (AP2I)

CSO Coalition for Ethical and Sustainable Seafood

Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF)

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Form (GLJ-ILRF)

Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI)

Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Bandung (LBH Bandung)

Oxfam International – Asia

Plan International

Serikat Awak Kapal Perikanan Bersatu (Sakti) SULUT

Serikat Awak Kapal Transportasi Indonesia (SAKTI)

Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI)

Serikat Pekerja Perikanan Indonesia (SPPI)

Serikat Pelaut Sulawesi Utara (SPSU)

Stella Maris Manila

The Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)

Verité Southeast Asia

Endorsers

Amnesty International – Indonesia

Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW)

Human Rights Working Group (HRWG)

MARUAH Singapore

Raks Thai Foundation

Solidaritas Perempuan (SP)


[Singapore Internet Watch] September Internet News Round-Up; Privacy and Security Resources for Civil Society

19 September 2021

This round-up covers issues ranging from crucial privacy/security resources for civil society, the Yale-NUS merger, and the latest use of POFMA. We have provided some excerpts from the round-up below. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

Law and Digital Politics

The new foreign interference law: A new Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act has been introduced in Parliament. If passed, it will give the Singapore government the power to remove, change, or block “hostile” online information. As with POFMA, the bill’s impact on the shape of electronic communications will be noteworthy.

Sedition Act Repeal: The passage of more recent laws, such as POFMA has lessened the relevance of the Sedition Act, according to a bill introduced in Parliament to repeal it. However, with the Sedition Act’s repeal, the Criminal Procedure Code will be amended to make “ the deliberate wounding of any person’s religious or racial feelings” and “the promotion of disharmony” arrestable offences.

Crowdfunding for Damages to Singapore’s PM: The Online Citizen editor Terry Xu has been crowdfunding to pay for damages to PM Lee Hsien Loong, following 2 defamation lawsuits over TOC’s articles on the Lee siblings dispute.

Education

AI in Education: As part of Singapore’s National AI Strategy for education, MOE is exploring AI-enabled marking for English assignments and expects to integrate this into the Student Learning Space e-learning platform in 2 years.

Academic Freedom in Singapore: Academia.sg released their ground-breaking Academic Freedom Report. Check out this summary of key points from Yahoo Singapore: 78% of Singapore academics report at least ‘moderate’ interference: poll.

Yale-NUS Closure: read below for a compilation of recent analysis and commentary.

Business

Labour Protections for Platform Workers: Amidst a growing gig economy, PM Lee’s NDR speech addressed the precarity that platform workers face and acknowledged their need for better economic protections.

Manipulating Review Platforms: A Japanese restaurant in Singapore discovered that their negative online reviews it was receiving were actually their competitors trying to sabotage them

Security and Surveillance

Up to US$150,000 for Ethical Hackers: GovTech is launching a program to reward ethical hackers who find bugs and vulnerabilities in government websites and apps.

Autonomous Robots Patrolling the Heartland: This three week trial marks the first time “that an autonomous robot is being used to patrol and survey a public area with high foot traffic to enhance public health and safety”.


Singapore Internet Watch is a student-run group focusing on internet research. Their key focus areas include censorship, media regulation, misinformation and freedom of information.


The group believes in the need for open data and transparency in studying contentious issues at the intersection of Singapore’s internet and society.


Subscribe to their monthly newsletter to receive a round-up of the latest developments in Singapore’s media and politics, and updates on their work.


[International Criminal Court] Abd-Al-Rahman case : Trial to open on 5 April 2022

19 September 2021

Today, 8 September 2021, Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “Court”) composed of Judge Joanna Korner, Presiding Judge, Judge Reine Alapini-Gansou and Judge Althea Violet Alexis-Windsor  scheduled the opening of the trial in the case  The Prosecutor v. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (“Ali Kushayb”) for 5 April 2022.

Mr Abd-Al-Rahman was transferred to the ICC’s custody on 9 June 2020, after surrendering himself voluntarily in the Central African Republic. His initial appearance before the ICC took place on 15 June 2020. The confirmation of charges hearing was held before Pre-Trial Chamber II from 24 to 26 May 2021. On  9 July 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court unanimously, issued a decision confirming all the charges brought by the Prosecutor against Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (“Ali Kushayb”) and committed him to trial before a Trial Chamber.

The 31 charges include intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such, as a war crime; murder as a crime against humanity and as a war crime; pillaging as a war crime; destruction of the property of an adversary as a war crime; other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity; outrages upon personal dignity as a war crime; rape as a crime against humanity and a war crime; forcible transfer as a crime against humanity; persecution as a crime against humanity; torture as a crime against humanity and a war crime; cruel treatment as a war crime; attempted murder as a crime against humanity and a war crime.

For further information on this case, check here.

For further information, please contact Fadi El Abdallah, Spokesperson and Head of Public Affairs Unit, International Criminal Court, by telephone at: +31 (0)70 515-9152 or +31 (0)6 46448938 or by e-mail at: fadi.el-abdallah@icc-cpi.int

You can also follow the Court’s activities on TwitterFacebookTumblrYouTubeInstagram and Flickr


[Repost] Latest update on Myanmar by ANFREL

27 July 2021

[Repost] ANFREL Monthly Brief on Countries Under Restrictive Management – Series #3

6 July 2021

Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar & Hong Kong

June 2021

Introduction
ANFREL started publishing the monthly brief on the countries under a restrictive environment in April 2021 to provide an insight into the human rights and democracy situation in these countries. As usual, they will cover issues related to elections and civil and political rights in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Hong Kong.

To read the full brief, please click here.