The Southeast Asia Media Legal Defence Network (SEAMLDN), a regional non-governmental organisation comprised of lawyers, journalists and media activists with a focus on the defence of the media and the promotion of freedom of expression within Southeast Asia, was launched on 22 July 2010 in Kuala Lumpur. The SEAMLDN aims to provide legal assistance to journalists and news media organisations, support training in media law and promote the exchange of information, litigation tools and strategies for lawyers working on media freedom cases.
The soft launching of the SEAMLDN at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur was attended by lawyers, journalists and media activists from Malaysia and Singapore. It is timed with a Media Legal Defence Training, which will be held on 23 and 24 July 2010, focusing on the current pressing needs of journalists and media activists in these two countries. Among the resource people for the training are Singaporean lawyers Alfred Dodwell and Peter Low, who will present the legal challenges in the Far Eastern Economic Review defamation case, and Malaysian lawyer K. Shanmuga, who is handling the defamation litigation against Malaysiakini.
The idea of a network of lawyers, journalists and media activists under one common umbrella was first mooted at a conference in Hong Kong in May 2007. Since then, the shape and personality of the Network has grown tremendously with various additions of lawyers, journalists and media activists from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Timor Leste and Hong Kong. Support from various generous organisations have made it possible for trainings, court observations and funding of important legal cases to various parties in the past two years.
The setting up of the SEAMLDN could not have come at a better time. In recent times alone, we have seen extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, the usage of archaic and punitive laws to stifle the freedom of expression, discussions of religious and ethnic matters and exposure of corruption and the lack of accountability in Malaysia and Singapore, the silencing of journalists in matters relating to the monarchy in Thailand and the jailing of lawyers in Vietnam. This has resulted in a clarion call for the setting up of the SEAMLDN as a collaborative and united network against any form of oppression and tyranny.
The fact also remains that the playing ground is often unfair and imbalanced insofar as media reporting in Southeast Asia is concerned. Alternative media has often found itself against unnecessary heavy-handed government interference, resulting in the citizens of Southeast Asia having limited and unequal access to alternative views, discourse and information.
Given that there is a real possibility of general elections in Malaysia and Singapore in the next two years, the empowerment of journalists and media activists and the availability of media legal defence are critical in ensuring that freedom of expression is protected by the very basic principles of democracy.
The SEAMLDN is committed to providing support for defence of the media and freedom of expression. The support provided is determined by the specific circumstances of each case or project and may include, among others:
a) Paying legal fees
b) Helping to access free legal advice
c) Taking on cases in international tribunals and supervisory bodies
d) Supporting the independent observation of court proceedings
e) Supporting strategic litigation
f) Providing opportunities for training in media law and litigation
g) Supporting the exchange of information and experience among media lawyers
For further information about the SEAMLDN, please contact:
Southeast Asia Media Legal Defence Network
c/o 48-2, Jalan Medan Setia 2 Plaza Damansara Bukit Damansara
50490 Kuala Lumpur
Phone: +6013 366 1222
Fax: +603 2095 7505
Media Legal Defence Initiative
3rd Floor Cambridge House
100 Cambridge Grove
London, W6 0LE
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +44 (0) 207 0310 215
Fax: +44 (0) 207 0310 211