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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A Look behind the Fake News Laws of Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, attempts to regulate the fake news phenomenon can be broadly categorized, on the one hand, in cases where fake news laws are conceived at least also as the government’s weapon to silence critics and dissenters, and on the other hand, cases where the discourse is lead more open-ended. Under the first category, Malaysia springs to mind, Cambodia and Vietnam possibly too. Thailand is a somewhat mixed case. Much more open-ended are the fake news discourses in Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

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Complexities of Constitutional Change in the Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in July 2016, His party, PDP-Laban, had campaigned under the slogan: “No to Drugs, Yes to Federalism”. Duterte thus is committed to shepherding the Philippines towards a federal form of government; an undertaking that would require an extensive overhaul of the country’s constitution. The future of constitutional change under Duterte in any event is uncertain for a series of constitutional and political reasons. Critically, some of the most pressing of these concern the process of constitutional change itself. 

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Bye bye, ICC! The Philippines’ farewell put into perspective

On 14 March 2018, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the Philippines will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC, the Court) “effective immediately.” Duterte’s intention to reject the ICC’s jurisdiction exemplifies the Court’s fragile foothold across Southeast Asia. Cambodia and the Philippines have been the only two ICC members among the ten ASEAN countries. Thailand signed the Statute in 2000, but not yet proceeded to ratification. An explanation of this Southeast Asian hesitation may be found in distinct attitudes and principles within and between the ASEAN countries.

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