Democracy in Southeast Asia: Elites are an obstacle

Asia Centre’s Dr. Robin Ramcharan explains in a recent oped for the Asia Global Institute the politics behind the change in Malaysia’s government. He highlights the fragile nature of democracy in Southeast Asian countries and the power and influence of elites, including the military.

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“China expelled WSJ journalists because it cannot bear criticism”

Read Asia Centre’s Drs James Gomez and Robin Ramcharan opinion piece in Nikkei Asia Review, “China expelled WSJ journalists because it cannot bear criticism”.

 

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“Journalism suffers existential crisis”

Read Asia Centre and Oxfam in Asia´s joint Op-Ed written by James Gomez and Nipuna Kumbalathara on how journalism can overcome the industry-wide existential crisis by focusing on issues that matter to people by going back to the basics of what makes a good reporter: curiosity, integrity and boldness

 

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中國報: Datuk Wong Sai Wan asked, “How can media survive without financial support after the Regime Change?”

Malaysia’s China press reported on the 18 December 2019 joint Asia Centre and Oxfam Malaysia Launch: Journalism for an Equitable Asia Award. The report highlighted Malay Mail’s Editor-in-Chief, Datuk Wong Sai Wan suggestion that the award should consider the “sponsors” behind each media. As this feature presently distinguishes most of ASEAN’s media which are “sponsored” compared to current Malaysian media which is no longer “sponsored”.

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星州日报:After National Front Lost Elections, “Many Media also lost financial support”

Malaysia’s Sin Chew press, reported the 18 December 2020 Asia Centre and Oxfam joint Malaysia Launch : Journalism for an Equitable Asia Award. The report highlighted Malay Mail’s Editor-in-Chief, Datuk Wong Sai Wan observation that the National Front used to subsidize many of Malaysia’s media but these media companies suddenly lost financial support after the National Front lost the election.

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Looking Ahead to Next Year: Southeast Asia’s Big 2020 Elections

“As James Gomez of the Asia Center in Bangkok has shown, recent election seasons in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have included politicians, faith-based groups and other actors using disinformation to mobilize political supporters. He believes that Myanmar could easily fall into the same pattern.”

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Aung San Suu Kyi to appear at ICJ as Myanmar faces genocide case

On 3 December, Dr. James Gomez spoke with Al Jazeera English on Aung San Suu Kyi’s image declining in the eyes of the international community. Dr Gomez argued that, while in the past years the international community sympathized with her more, this has turned to disappointments due to her defence of the use of #Myanmar’s armed forces against the #Rohingya situation. With the #ICJ case, we should expect to see a rise of hate speech against the #UN, INGOs and activists who call for accountability for the genocide committed against the Rohingyas.

Watch the interview here

Hate speech intensity and trajectory could shift in Myanmar 2020 elections

Dr. James Gomez’s interview was published, 30 November, in Mizzima English on hate speech in Myanmar and its effects on the upcoming election.

“In the Myanmar case, ethnic and religious based hate speech stands to morph along the lines of political ideology and values, and this requires special attention and remedial action in the run up to the November 2020 election”.

Read the interview here

Expert Concerns Over Rising Fake News and Hate Speech in Southeast Asia

Dr. James Gomez was interviewed by Men Kimseng of VOA Khmer in Washington on 18 October. They discussed how fake news in Southeast Asia can often lead to hate speech against marginalised groups and political opposition. Dr. Gomez informed that fact-checking, political literacy and quality journalism could partially help to mitigate the problem.

Watch the interview here

Economics expected to overshadow human rights in ASEAN summit

On 2 November, Dr. Gomez was interviewed by Al Jazeera on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit. Dr. Gomez argued that some governments and INGOs in trying to find pathways to access Myanmar economically and are in the process compromising and trading down the political rights of the Rohingya community. Such governments and INGOs need to be identified and called out.

Watch the interview here.

Heavy price to pay for spreading fake news

Dr. Gomez spoke to the 89.9 BFM: The Business Station on 3 October 2019 regarding Singapore’s new “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act” which came into act recently.

As evidenced by events leading up to the new law now put into place, Dr. Gomez said government critics and civil society activists are likely to remain the prime targets in the run up to the city-state’s next general elections.

Listen to the podcast here.

ASEAN unity and the South China Sea

Dr. James Gomez was interviewed by journalist Du Nhat Dang from the Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre on August 7 2019. Dr. Gomez pointed out that ASEAN unity is increasingly subverted by China’s influence over Cambodia and Laos. He suggested that it’s best ASEAN members and other external powers adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the principle of Free and Open Indo-Pacific to avoid open conflict.

Read the interview here.

ASEAN Members’ should hold their ground and not give into China

Dr James Gomez discussed security issues with reporter Nguyen Ngoc Phuong from Vietnam Television on 29th July 2019 on the sidelines of the 52nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. With reference to the tensions in the South China Sea, Dr. Gomez said ASEAN members states have to hold their ground and appeal to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea otherwise they will be over run by China. 

Response to US Sanctions Against Myanmar Generals and International Criminal Court Investigations into the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Dr. James Gomez was live on Al Jazeera  – قناة الجزيرة on 18 July 2019 to comment on the US sanctions against the Myanmar generals and their family from entering into the US and the arrival of the International Criminal Court delegation in Dhaka to open an investigation into alleged crimes against the Rohingya people in Bangladesh and in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.Responding to the US sanctions on the top four Burmese generals, Dr Gomez says it is only a symbolic sanction and not effective as most Burmese prefer to consider countries like Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand as their first preferred destination for healthcare, holidays, study and work then the US. With regards to the ICC investigation, Dr. Gomez questioned whether the Bangladesh government will fully cooperate with the ICC as it risks worsening relations with its neighbor Myanmar.

The Balance Between Authenticity and Stifling Expression

Asia Centre‘s Int. Conference on Fake News and Elections in Asia was featured in Ice Business Times on 20 June 2019. In the article Asia Centre’s Conference Coordinator Tessa Alleblas explained the motivation behind legal developments surrounding fake news, noting that “Governments have argued that such legislation is in particular necessary in the run-up to elections as fake news or disinformation has the power to sway voters during the campaign period as well as fuel communal violence.”

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“Fake News”: A New Weapon against Dissidents in Southeast Asia

Dr. Gomez’s oped published on 13 June 2019 for International Centre for Nonviolent Conflict on how Southeast Asian governments are dismissing as “fake news” critical opinions, research findings, and news content that are not in line with the government stance.

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Media Literacy Programme on Disinformation in Myanmar

Dr. James Gomez was interviewed by Myanmar’s DVB TVnews on 8 June 2019 for a media literacy programme on what constitutes disinformation and fake news. During the interview Dr. Gomez explained the different types of disinformation campaigns and how it relates to Myanmar’s 2020 general elections. He noted that internet penetration will continue to grow and this will impact traditional mainstream media shape and how news will be consumed during the elections. Last but not least, Dr. Gomez offered suggestions such as enlisting the young generation to help with peer fact-checking.

Watch interview here

Singapore’s fake news law: a lesson to Asia in stifling dissent?

Dr. Gomez on 9 May 2019 provides an insight into the reasons given by states to introduce fake news laws. “Using the argument of maintaining social harmony to pass legislation to control hate speech.Operationally, such laws are often used to curb political criticism of long standing regimes. You often see this played out during elections”

 
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The Role of Fake News in Politics, Stability and Elections

Legislation is being introduced across Southeast Asia to combat fake news in the name of preserving social harmony. In practice, however, it is too often used by long-sitting regimes as a tool to discredit political opponents ahead of critical events such as elections and referendums. As a result, democratic values like freedom of expression and press freedom are directly impacted by legal retaliation to what governments call “fake news” written by their critics.

Read Dr James Gomez’s interview with the Irrawaddy on World Press Freedom Day 3rd May 2019 here.

 

From Fake News To Fake Elections

Dr. James spoke to the 89.9 BFM: The Business Station about the fake news legislation in the region, its impact on elections and the intersection of disinformation and false election results with Lyn Mak in Malaysia on 22 April 2019.

Listen to the interview here.

Battle for the Truth

Governments across Asia, namely in Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and India, are considering ways to tackle the problem of disinformation on social media, particularly as they gear up for crucial elections in 2019.

Read Asia Centre’s mention in the article on 16 April as Dr Gomez focuses on how in Malaysia, an anti-fake news bill was passed in April 2018,  before the general election which was designed to “shape and manipulate online discussion in favour of Najib Razak’s government during the election period.

Read the article here.

Falsehoods, Facebook, and First-time Budgets

 
Dr. James spoke to the 89.9 BFM: The Business Station on 3 April 2019 about Singapore introducing its own version of an ‘anti-fake news’ bill in Parliament and how it affects political landscape in the country.
 

Listen to the full interview here

 

Post-election period in Thailand

Asia Centre’s programme coordinator Yawee Butrkrawee gave an interview to Nguyen Ngoc Phuong from Vietnam Television during 28th March 2019 on the post-election period in Thailand, the likelihood of coalition government and the impacts on Thailand’s foreign policy. He also noted the unprecedented fake news/ online disinformation during the period leading to the election and the roles of youth in Thai politics.

Quality journalism key to fighting fake news

Dr. James Gomez spoke to the Philippine news agency on 22 March 2019 as moderator the panel discussion on the role of journalists in the context of information disorder and digital literacy at the ASEAN Workshop for Addressing Fake News. However, Dr Gomez also said over criminalization” or excessive laws and regulations and vaguely-worded legislation result in legal battles between government officials and individuals or other stakeholders.

Read about the discussion here.

The Community is Comfortable with Fake News that is Sensational

On 4 March 2019, Dr. James Gomez was hosted by the Kompas Daily office in Semarang, Indonesia to speak to journalists at a media literacy roundtable. During that discussion, Dr. Gomez pointed out that the spread of false news is still rife due to unclear regulations and lack of quality filtering in the use of social media. Further, that sensational fake news attracts people to read and share them. The event and contents of the discussion was reported in Bahasa Indonesia, “Masyarakat Masih Senang Kabar Bohong yang Sensasional”.

Read the full article here.

A Right Royal Rumble – Palace Pushes Princess Out Of Race

Dr James Gomez was interviewed on 11 February 2019 by 89.9FM The Business Station on the electoral developments in Thailand following the nomination by Thai Raksa Chart Party of Princess Ubolratana as a Prime Ministerial candidate.

Listen to the full interview here

In the name of ‘fake news,’ Asian governments tighten control on social media

In February 8 2019, Dr. James Gomez was quoted in the LA times. James Gomez said “Government officials in Southeast Asia are focusing on social media commentary that causes “reputation harm” to themselves and their institutions, Unlike in the U.S., where Trump is attacking to do reputation damage to the fact-based traditional media,” he said, “in Asia, government representatives are focused on discrediting critics.”

Read the full article here:

Election Watch – Thailand’s Democratic Test

Dr James Gomez on 4 February 2019 discussed the political situation in Thailand and public sentiment ahead of the elections, including the strength of the youth vote.Thailand will hold its first democratic elections on 24 March since the military took over the government in the May 2014 coup.
 
Listen to the full interview here.
 

Panel discussion – Fake News The Menace

 
In December 5 2018, The Shilong Times published  a report on the panel of  “Fake News – The Menace”, where the regional director Dr James Gomez was a speaker .The event was organised by social enterprises Jookto and Nagrik Mancha Shillong at on 4 December at Shillong Club.
 
The discussions on fake news both in Guwahati and Shillong were reported in the local vernacular and English press.

Role of ASEAN in the refugee crisis

On 5 November 2018, Dr. Gomez was interviewed by Lynda Chanwai-Earle, a researcher from Asia Media Centre at the Asia New Zealand Foundation. Key issues discussed about the Rohingya refugee crisis included forced migration, human trafficking and regional resistance to engage.

Read full article here.

Dr Gomez speaks to ABC News on the Rohingya Refugees

Dr. James Gomez spoke to the ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) from Tokyo on Friday, 28 September 2018 on the Rohingya issue after the Canadian parliament voted to strip Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi of honorary citizenship.

Watch the video here.

Halimah Yacob takes on the role of the President of Singapore

Dr Robin Ramcharan, Executive Director was interviewed by Agencia EFE on 13 September 2017, a Spanish News Agency on his comments of the change in constitutional roles as Halimah Yacob takes on the role of the President of Singapore. He welcomes the change in a male dominated political role and says becuase of her work as an MP in women’s issues and the Muslim community will make her transition to becoming the president smoother.

Read more here.

Lee Family Feud – Larger Significance?

Dr Robin Ramcharan, Executive Director, spoke to BFM 89.9 on July 2017 The Business Station regarding the younger siblings of Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong who had released a six page statement accusing the premier of betraying the legacy of their father, Lee Kuan Yew. Dr Ramcharan questions whether this has a larger political consequence.

Listen here

Singapore PM Lee is engaged in a very public spat with his siblings over their father’s will

Dr Robin Ramcharan, Executive Director was interviewed by the ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) in regard to the family spat of the younger siblings of the Singaporean Prime Minister. He comments this family spat is not ordinary as it concerns the trajectory of the state.

Sarakadee Magazine interview of Dr. James Gomez 

In October 2016, Dr James Gomez was interviewed by Mr Sujane Kanparit for Sarakadee Magazine. He talked about his previous political engagement when he studied at the National University of Singapore in the late 1980s and his political campaigns in the 2000s. His main argument was that in order to understand Singapore, we must first understand Mainland China as political culture of Singapore has been influenced by Chinese tradition of being conservative and self-censorship. Dr Gomez also introduced Asia Centre as part of his academic contribution which aims to connect people in Southeast Asian region for intellectual exchanges.

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