Need for safer, freer region stressed by panelists commemorating 9th International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists
To mark the 9th International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEA) on November 2, media workers from around Southeast Asia gathered together with international stakeholders to consider the best solutions to overcome prevailing constraints on regional media - legal, political and cultural.
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed IDEA in 2013, both to commemorate the assassination of two French journalists in Mali and to encourage member states to adopt measures to end impunity with respect to crimes against media workers.
The event on Tuesday was an online public discussion, held by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Prachatai, an independent online newspaper based in Bangkok.
The commemoration included a panel discussion by investigative journalists from Thailand and Myanmar. They talked about the risks they face performing their work and also considered a situation report about media safety in Thailand.
A situation report on Thailand indicates that media workers in the country have also been facing increased risk while performing their duties. Following the surge of public protest calling for a political and monarchy reform in 2020 , at least 5 mass media workers and 3 citizen journalists were arrested while reporting at the protest sites, 14 were reportedly shot by rubber bullets, 3 were physically assaulted and 4 injured by explosive devices.
Thailand's International Affairs Department suggested that within the context of Thailand, the Department for Special Investigations should be tasked with such investigations as it allows prosecutors to take part in the investigation process, which is otherwise left to the police, who are far less efficient in tracking down perpetrators.
The discussion also urged the Southeast Asia countries to use their political will for democratisation, revise laws, policies and practices in compliance with human rights laws, and replace criminal punishments under defamation, sedition and lese majeste laws with civil codes drafted in line with international trends. Meanwhile, the public was asked to be alert to the limitation of communication freedom and violence against journalists, including structural threats like law and cultural violence, in order to improve the freedom and the quality of journalism in the region.