December 8th, 2019. The U.S. Government through the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT project is supporting the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (Indonesia and Malaysia) to hold a regional consultation on Freedom of Opinion and Expression. Building upon the momentum created by the “High-Level Dialogue on Managing Freedom of Expression in the Information Age” held in Medan, Indonesia in April 2018, the consultation is the first in a series of AICHR-supported activities to act on recommendations to elaborate Article 23 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration related to freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, freedom to information, right to privacy and media freedom.
Through a series of consultations among civil society, academia, and ASEAN officials, the AICHR will lead the development of key recommendations to fulfill the normative gaps related to ASEAN cooperation to uphold human rights commitments under the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration pertaining to freedom of expression and opinion. Today’s consultation brings together AICHR representatives, sectoral body and government representatives, scholars, and civil society organizations to discuss contemporary issues and to begin the process of drafting recommendations to elaborate Article 23 of ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. Over the coming three days, sessions will draw upon knowledge and experience from expert panelists on topics ranging from citizen protection under the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration to human rights in the digital age, identifying and posing ways to address challenges, including on sensitive privacy and censorship issues. On the final day of the three-day event, focus group discussions will be organized to further explore areas for elaboration under Article 23 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.
In her opening remarks, H.E. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Indonesia’s representative to the AICHR, welcomed the speakers and participants, highlighting the fact that freedom of expression is a right guaranteed by both international and regional legal frameworks, including in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. She went on to raise a few of the issues that will be tackled through the consultation, including the impact of ICT and social media and how societies have been experiencing information disorder, namely misinformation. She concluded by stating her hope that the consultation will provide a platform for an exchange of views and experiences in the promotion and protection of these essential freedoms.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Julie Chen, USAID ASEAN Office Director lauded AICHR’s efforts to further articulate and provide recommendations on Article 23 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration on freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, freedom to information, and the right to privacy. She emphasized the importance of improving digital literacy and opportunities for education for media actors and consumers alike. She further emphasized that the private sector, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others, also have an important role to play to more effectively govern their media platforms in this rapidly evolving environment.
H.E. Kurt Kunz, Ambassador of Switzerland to Indonesia, Timor Leste and ASEAN, highlighted how Article 19 of the UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights on freedom of expression fits into the current reality 71 years later. He noted that in today’s world, media plays a more significant role in capturing and defining global reality. He explained that Switzerland has made attempts to uphold freedom of expression for its citizens, noting that informed opinions become the basis for good decisions and form the basis for democratic governance.
The AICHR Consultation on Freedom of Opinion and Expression in ASEAN is jointly supported by the United States Government through the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT project, AICHR Indonesia, AICHR Malaysia, and Embassy of Switzerland to Indonesia, Timor Leste and ASEAN.