( 5 Articles )
Documenting Threats to the Rivers of Southeast Asia: Looking through the Journalist's Lens
The mighty Mekong river flows through five countries in the region – Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Thailand – and is home to millions of people, whose lives are interconnected with the river. In Burma, the Irrawady that flows the length of the country from the north to the south, is more than just a river: it is the soul of the nation. The large island of Borneo is home to three majestic rivers—the Rejang and Kinabatangan in Malaysia and Mahakam in Kalimantan.
But these rivers are at risk: from being biologically dead, to being affected by climate change. The impact is great, not only to the environment but also to the communities living along the rivers. The Lower Mekong Basin for example, is at risk of several climate change impacts, such as increase in mean temperature and higher rainfall. Annual floods, while having its benefits on the ecosystem, also wreak havoc when overall management is not properly done.
According to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), devastating floods in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines, have led to 1,000 deaths and the destruction of millions of homes and livelihoods, while on the economic side, costing Southeast Asia USD6.3 billion in lost production.
In addition, the global impact of climate change is very much a serious issue in the Southeast Asian region. With 2012 as the end date for the protocol to fight global warming, the Kyoto Protocol, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What future protocols or agreements will replace this and how will it have an impact on the protection of natural resources?
In recent years, plans for the construction of dams along many of these massive rivers have raised environmental concerns. The controversial Myitsone dam on the Irrawady River is one such example.
Though its construction was suspended late 2011, there are concerns as to the damages on the communities living along the river and the environment. Neighbouring countries have also expressed concern with the proposed Xayaburi dam in Laos, but little is being reported within the region on the issue.
Fellows will be encouraged to explore the causes of the problems affecting the rivers and water resources in the region; the impact on the overall environment, the peoples and the economy; and solutions that are being explored, and frame proposal questions such as:
- What are the stories of the communities who have experienced loss of income and homes because of developments along the rivers?
- How are men, women and children affected as a result of the devastations?
- What will be the impact of existing and upcoming dams in the region?
- To what extent are some of these threats resulting in the emergence of environment refugees and are states in the region prepared to cope with this phenomenon?
- What are the policies and plans being undertaken to mitigate the threats and harms to the environment and the communities whose lives depend on the rivers?
( 2 Articles )
Theme: Gearing up for a community in 2015 - How free is the flow of information in ASEAN?
For 2011, the Journalism Fellowship attempts to take a closer and analytical look at ASEAN’s plans for integration, in particular policies and regulations aimed at facilitating the free flow of information. To date, only two countries in the region – Thailand and Indonesia – have laws on access to information at the national level, but the media and the public have yet to fully benefit from these laws.
ASEAN is working towards becoming a community of close to 600 million people starting in 2015. The governments in the region are committed to establishing a rules-based community that is people-oriented and to building a common economic market. But what about the flow of information?
The Fellowship encourages journalists to investigate the extent to which information is accessible to the public and to what extent governments are serious in wanting to promote freedom of information.
( 11 Articles )
An ASEAN Community by 2015: Vision or Delusion?
The theme revolved around ASEAN's direction to develop "One Community", founded on, among other things, a new charter, aspirations for a common market, with more liberal trans-boundary labor movement, and even a push for a common understanding of human rights.
Fellows were encouraged to further review recent developments in ASEAN, including the passage of a new ASEAN Charter, the convening of an ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the formation of an ASEAN Committe on Women and Children, and the initiatives for an ASEAN body that will look into matters of migration and labor. SEAPA explored the realities, challenges, promise, difficulties, politics, and economics of the very notion of an ASEAN Community with shared values, aspirations, and norms.
( 9 Articles )
Theme: The Challenge for Human Rights under the new ASEAN Charter
The ASEAN Charter was adopted at the 13th ASEAN Summit in November 2007 and came into force in December with a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Jakarta.
Beyond rules of membership and ASEAN's vision for single free trade area by 2015, the ASEAN Charter affirms that among others, one of ASEAN's purposes is "to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms..."
Article 14 of the ASEAN Charter goes as far as to commit that "ASEAN shall establish an ASEAN human rights body." Given such developments and continuing concerns, the SEAPA Journalism Fellowship 2009 provided the platform for journalists to explore challenges for democracy and human rights in the region.
( 8 Articles )
Theme: Covering Burma
The Saffron Revolution in Burma in September 2007 and the following political and humanitarian crisis in Burma underscored two things at once. One, it showed how little the world—and even Southeast Asians—knows and understands about Burma. And second, it also demonstrated the power and vitality of information; how the absence of access and freedom aggravates problems, and how the inevitability of the flow of information (even trickles of it) can mitigate against even the worst of crises.
However, Burma also showed the other end of that spectrum when Cyclone Nargis struck the country on 2 May 2008, killing scores of thousands of Burmese and leaving one million homeless in the wake of its destructive trail. This time, the dire lack of information that has characterised the four-decade-plus military rule in the country revealed its devastating impact—there was no warning of the cyclone, nor notice of evacuation, leading to the death of thousands caught in the cyclone's path and the tidal wave that followed. In the aftermath of the natural disaster, the continued restriction on information and reporting of the damage and needs of survivors killed thousands more, turning it into a human-made catastrophe.
The 2008 Journalism Fellowship is aimed at contributing to greater interest and deeper understanding of Burmese issues among the region’s press.
( 11 Articles )
Theme: Human Rights versus a culture of impunity in Southeast Asia
In 2007, Cambodia will underscore the importance of the need for justice, of the imperative to confront human rights violations, when the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT) is finally convened and allowed to play its part in (hopefully) bringing closure and healing to a nation. All throughout the rest of Southeast Asia, meanwhile, each nation finds that confronting rights abuses with justice, and fighting a culture of impunity itself, is vital to true human and national development.
Whether its theme reminds about the massacre of East Timorese under Indonesian rule, the disappearance of human rights workers in Thailand, the arrest and killing of student activists in Burma, or the unabated killing of journalists in the Philippines, the 2007 Journalism Fellowship Program will as always be a rich venue for reflective journalism and discussions. It will highlight the virtues of journalism's freedom to shed light, support justice, and establish truth as a fundamental foundation for any society seeking stability and progress.
( 20 Articles )
Theme: Religion a Force for Change in Southeast Asia
With more than 500 million people inhabiting tens of thousands of islands and speaking hundreds of native languages, ethnic and religious diversity have always been sources of strength and cultural wealth in the 11 countries that comprise Southeast Asia (including East Timor).
As with any other corner of the world, however, intolerance, misunderstanding, and even pressures of rapid development and globalization can also harm and upset the very diversity that makes Southeast Asia a rich region. Ethnic and religious diversity can be a source of stability as well as instability, a teacher of tolerance or intolerance, a provider of security or insecurity. As with any other region, after all, in Southeast Asia there are majorities and there are minorities. There are stereotypes and there are realities.
In this year's Journalism Fellowship, the topic of religion is not all about strife or violence or sadness and hurt. Religion, and religious diversity, still and also primarily bring up stories of inspiration, tolerance, and the best attributes of humanity. Religion continues to be one of the most powerful forces for positive change in Southeast Asia.
( 16 Articles )
Theme: Covering Disasters in Southeast Asia
The 2005 Journalism Fellowship theme takes off from the devastating tsunami that started 2005 off on a somber note, but precisely strives to transcend that very story. Covering disasters has to go beyond the specific moment and extent of the disaster, it should uncover the grim realities and concerns that impact on the culture, society, governance, environment, communities, and individual lives.
Southeast Asia is not only vulnerable to natural disasters, it is also beset with man-made calamities. To what extent are governments prepared to face these traegedies and how to people adopt and adapt to the changing situations? The fellowship encourages journalists to ask these questions and to further examine the aftermath through the eyes of the individuals who suffer these tragedies but who are not necessarily willing to be victims.
( 12 Articles )
Theme: Towards an information society in Southeast Asia
The reach and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the region's different countries are uneven. All the same, from their immersion in communities - some in far-flung jungle or mountain areas, others in major cities - the people of the region have embraced new technologies even in remote villages, while even in more developed areas others continue to be deprived of basic facilities - even their right to correct information.
The 2004 Journalism Fellowship is geared towards highlighting the opportunities and challenges of new technologies and how these interact with the mainstream media, the political systems, people's access to information and knowledge and the disparities in infrastructure and demographics that define the haves and the have nots.
( 6 Articles )
Theme: Covering the Region in Rising Conflicts
While the end of Cold War brought peace to Cambodia and turned fragmented Southeast Asia into one organization under one roof, transnational problems have factored in and landed nation states and state and the people into conflicts of interests. These conflicts are far more complex as they require understandings of related laws and polices of parties involved, human rights and investigative reporting skills.
Nevertheless, journalists have failed to understand this regional trend and at times lagged behind. Many of them are used to short-live news scoop, ignoring investigative or in-depth reporting of these conflicts, which need patience and thorough understanding and neutrality.
The financial crisis showed that journalists were unprepared to act as an early warning system to the public of an impending crisis. They lacked ability and capacity to understand, let alone analyze the statistics and numerous economic data, for ordinary people available. They failed to gauge the magnitude of the crisis.
The 2003 Journalism Fellowship provided the opportunity for journalists to investigate some of the implications to the region as a result of the social, economic and political changes.
( 7 Articles )
Theme: ASEAN media and the region in transition
Journalists in the region, except those covering ASEAN meetings, are not well aware of the regional group's history and impact on national foreign policies. To understand the region at the time of transition (expansion and integration, leadership changes and social and economic transformation), it is important that journalists understand the significance of this integration at both political and economic levels. Over the past decade, ASEAN has expanded from six to ten countries with diverse political social and economic backgrounds. This rapid expansion has both constructive and negative consequences.
The 2002 Journalism Fellowship will take stock of recent regional developments, in particular, the ASEAN government’s response to the US-led global anti-terrorism campaign following the September 11 incident. It sets the stage for discussions on the stability of the ASEAN governments, in the wider context of freedom of expression and media freedom.