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The 2019 AICHR Consultation on Freedom of Opinion and Expression in ASEAN (Article 23 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration)

 

Nusa Dua, Bali, 10 December 2019

On 8-10 December 2019, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) organised the AICHR Consultation on Freedom of Opinion and Expression in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. This consultation was a follow-up to High-Level Dialogue (HLD) on Managing Freedom of Expression in the Information Age that was organised on 11-12 April 2018 in Medan, Indonesia.

Article 23 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) stipulates the right of individuals to form, hold and express their opinions without undue interference. This is crucial for the realisation of all other human rights.

Accordingly, the Representative of Indonesia to the AICHR, H.E. Yuyun Wahyuningrum underlined the importance of freedom of expression as an essential precondition for any democracy and called for the ASEAN Member States to pay the highest attention to freedom of opinion and expression in the region, in her opening remarks. She further explained the importance of upholding freedom of expression in order to enable citizens to make informed choices, to participate actively in democratic processes, and to help ensure that powerful interests are held to account in line with the rule of law.

 

 

H.E. Ambassador Chilman Arisman, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia emphasized the commitment of ASEAN countries in ensuring freedom of opinion and expression in accordance with article 23 of the AHRD. He stressed on the importance of balancing freedom and rights in addressing the challenges, including from the advancement from Information. Communication and Technology (ICT). He pointed out the role of the AICHR to provide advises on addressing mis-information, dis-information and mal-information from human rights perspective.

With the objectives of developing greater understanding on the concept of freedom of opinion and expression in both offline and online in ASEAN and exchanging views and experiences in promoting and protecting freedom of opinion and expression, the two-and-half-day Consultation was structured into eight discussion panels for and group discussions.

Among other things, 97 participants who came from ASEAN Member States, civil society organizations, media practitioners, universities, national human rights institutions, private sectors and also ASEAN sectoral bodies, discussed the state of human rights in digital age and its implications, opportunities and challenges in Southeast Asia, strategies to address the issues related to freedom of opinion and expression in Southeast Asia, the role of stakeholders in addressing the issues related to freedom of opinion and expression.

Participants also discussed ways to balance rights and freedom in ASEAN, particularly in dealing with the right to privacy, data protection, censorship and academic freedom in Southeast Asia and the existing practices of the ASEAN Member States on grievances mechanisms and remedies.

At the end of the Consultation, participants came up with inputs on the formulation of the Recommendation on the Implementation of the Article 23 of the AHRD to serve as a common language for human rights cooperation and actions in the context of regionalism in ASEAN. The inputs include the detailed state obligations to respect, protect and fulfil freedom of opinion and expression, the elaboration of digital rights, the roles of stakeholders and gender perspective to freedom of opinion and expression both offline and online.

The Consultation was hosted by the AICHR Indonesia in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, the US-PROSPECT of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Embassy of Switzerland to Indonesia in Jakarta.

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