State of Emergency Through the Back Door

One of the problems for Indonesia’s government when dealing with the coronavirus crisis was its non-transparent approach towards the public. Not least because of that, many people in Indonesia do not trust the government when it comes to handling the pandemic. The government’s attempt to declare the civilian emergency status which would have enabled it to control the flow of information has failed due to public opposition. A move by its police chief, however, is now trying to introduce emergency powers through the back door and in blatant disregard of a Constitutional Court ruling.

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Abstract panic: On fake news, fear and freedom in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, which is the world’s most dynamic laboratory of fake news legislation, the corona crisis has put previously created laws to practice and sparked additional legislative activity. The professed goal is to prevent public panic. Recent enforcement actions, however, demonstrate the complete irrelevance of any panic indicators. A falsehood’s panic potential is simply assumed. In short, an abstract panic threat is fought with very concrete measures: Arrests and criminal prosecutions. Cases from across Southeast Asia prove the trend, whereas two decisions in Singapore deserve particular attention.

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Truth vs. Free Speech

Southeast Asian governments have been stepping up their efforts to actively manage the truth by combatting false information. Among the main tools are correction orders and state-run “fake news centers” that monitor and “rectify” alleged falsehoods online. In addition, government discourse employs increasingly belligerent language to denounce the perceived threats. The Southeast Asian “war on fake news” thus makes the region the world’s most vibrant laboratory of anti-falsehood legislation. The protection of the truth is becoming an increasingly accepted ground for restricting free speech.

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