Timor-Leste’s Problematic “Internet” Laws

Timor-Leste’s government must set out clearly defined steps in the drafting process of its legislation, including ensuring there are consistent and adequate opportunities for consultation with the country’s stakeholders. These concerns over inadequate consultation have arisen on the back of three proposed laws on defamation, cybercrime and privacy that stand to impact internet freedoms. The draft Criminal Defamation Law, proposed in June 2020, would reinstate criminal defamation in Timor-Leste’s Penal Code and provide an easy path to criminalise critical opinions against the state or its officials. The draft Cybercrime Law, proposed in January 2021, does not provide adequate protection to human…

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Timor-Leste: Internet Freedoms Under Threat

Download full report Timor-Leste: Internet Freedoms Under Threat analyses the state of internet freedoms against the background of emerging national legislation pertaining to online content and privacy of data. With the rise in internet and social media usage, the scrutiny of government figures on digital platforms has resulted in a push for legislation aimed at cracking down on criticism, and allowing for surveillance and interception of online content. The collection of personal data in a move to digitalise public administration and the economy, furthers the risk of online surveillance of critics. This report examines the potential regression in online political…

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Myanmar: Dismantling Dissent Crackdowns on Internet Freedoms

Download Full Report Myanmar: Dismantling Dissent - Crackdowns on Internet Freedoms examines the state of internet freedoms in Myanmar. Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, any semblance of true freedom of expression online has drastically deteriorated. It is a sharp decline from the  increased user growth and adoption of social media platforms for political expression. This report examines a range of national laws that have been used to impact internet freedoms, namely the Constitution, Penal Code, Electronic Transactions Law, Telecommunications Law, and Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens in the last 10 years. To ensure the…

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Securitisation of Health Protocols: Impact on Vulnerable Communities

In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the Asian region have adopted (exceptional) health protocols to contain and arrest the spread of infections, and are now focusing on acquiring vaccines and rolling vaccination programmes. Many of the measures adopted have been characterised by a securitisation of health protocols and have either failed to address the specific needs of vulnerable communities, or worsened their already precarious conditions. To facilitate discussions on these trends, and identify avenues for positive change, on 18 June 2021 Asia Centre, Harm Reduction International (HRI) and UNITE Global Parliamentarians Network to End Infectious Diseases (UNITE) co-hosted…

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Waging War Against COVID-19

Download Waging War Against COVID-19: The Securitisation of the Health Response in Five Asian Countries, evaluates the various health responses enacted by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka. This briefing note categories the health responses as blended civil, securitised or militarised. Such an approach shows that authorities in the region, tackling the COVID-19 situation, primarily approach it as public security rather than a public health threat. This briefing note is a prelude to the full report The Securitisation of COVID-19 Health Protocols: Policing the Vulnerable, Infringing their Rights.

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Timor Leste Risks Downgrading Freedoms With New Laws

Amidst recent pushback to protect internet freedoms, it remains to be seen if Timor-Leste will retain its high rankings in “freedoms” in the long-term, as the country seeks membership in ASEAN, a grouping whose freedom rankings exhibit a sharp decline. While the country ranks highly in terms of academic and press freedom, with internet freedom likely to be on a similar upward trajectory, access to the internet and emerging laws present a challenge. These were the broad assertions made during an online town hall titled “Timor-Leste: Internet Freedoms Under Threat” held on 4 June 2021 by Asia Centre to share…

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Freedom of Expression A Fundamental Right

Academic, press and internet freedoms are a cluster of rights that form freedom of expression. To realise these rights, one must have access to accurate information and be able to express an opinion across platforms of one’s choice. This is a fundamental right and we can not allow it to be diluted by authoritarian governments who are increasingly challenging the universality of rights. To unpack these issues, Asia Centre, together with the May 18 Memorial Foundation, co-convened a panel, “Freedom of Expression and Democracy in Asia”. The event was held as part of the Gwangju Democracy Forum, and was hosted…

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Innovation Important to Overcome Media Hurdles

Media in the region are facing challenges both in terms of state censorship and financial sustainability. However, in almost all circumstances, innovation and improvisation were key to overcome these hurdles.“Celebrating Journalism: Reporting Without Fear” was held on 4 May 2021 to mark World Press Freedom Day. The event was organised in partnership with Asia Centre and Friedrich Naumann Foundation, with speakers from Internews, EFDEA and Taiwan Foundation for Democracy networks. The event was hosted online and live-streamed over social media (watch here). Frederic Spohr, Head of FNF Thailand and Myanmar, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, in his opening remarks stated that…

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Academic Freedoms Deteriorate As Autocracy Strengthens in Asia

Academic freedoms in Asia have deteriorated as autocracy strengthens across the region. However, in building resilience and fostering change, academic, press and internet freedoms need to be considered together as they form a cluster of rights that collectively make up freedom of expression.  This was the thrust of the interventions by speakers from Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia on 21 April 2021 when Asia Centre hosted the webinar, “Under Attack: Academic Freedoms in Asia”.  The event, which attracted over 150 participants and live-streamed over social media (watch here), was co-hosted with Lund University’s Centre for East and South-East Asian…

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