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Launch of Online Mapping and Monitoring of Repressive Laws

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A prominent Filipino journalist arrested for the second time as she returns to her country.

A group of satirical poets in Myanmar sentenced for a year for criticising the country’s military.

A Lao woman sentenced for five years for a Facebook post criticising the Government.

These are just some of the scenes we saw this year of use and misuse of laws by States to stifle dissent and repress freedoms of expression, opinion, assembly and association. They have become familiar, as States look to one another for ways to weaponise existing or new laws. Whether used to promote self-censorship or to facilitate reprisals, these laws are powerful weapons against those who push for a more open civic space in the region.

As Governments increasingly become aware of the use of digital spaces in promoting advocacy, laws and policies attempting to regulate these online spaces, supposedly with the aim of promoting national security, morals, or public peace, have been put in place. They have led to a further tightening of available spaces for dissent, as human rights defenders grapple with new threats of surveillance, cyber and ‘fake news’ legislation. Many of these tools are used indiscriminately, and with little purpose other than dissuading individuals from speaking out.

In 2018, FORUM-ASIA launched ‘Instruments of Repression: A Regional Report on the Status of Freedoms of Expression, Peaceful Assembly, and Association in Asia’. This year, on International Human Rights Day, FORUM-ASIA is bringing the project online, through an online map monitoring and mapping the development of these laws.

The website can be accessed here:

This project, still in its infancy, documents the use of repressive laws in selected countries in South East Asia. It aims to provide a resource on the development of these laws, and to document the ways civil society efforts lead to change. It aims to complement existing advocacy efforts of FORUM-ASIA, and its member organisations and partners, on the protection of fundamental freedoms.

*FORUM-ASIA is planning to expand the map to ensure it covers more countries and more legislation. Details on how to contribute can be found on the website.