Journalists in Southeast Asia are currently facing significant challenges in covering and reporting on elections, from limited access to election data, to intimidation by law enforcement and pressures from candidate teams and political parties. This predicament has become a concern considering that the freedom and independence of the press is a necessary precondition for implementation of democratic elections as well as equitable state governance.
“Journalism and elections are the most important instruments in democracy. Journalists on duty must be granted freedom and protection in order to produce high-quality reports and news coverage,” the Executive Director of Perhimpunan Pengembangan Media Nusantara (PPMN), Eni Mulia expressed during the Regional Conference on “The Role of Journalism in Supporting Democratic Elections” in Jakarta, Tuesday, 26 November 2019.
This conference was organised by RESPECT, a regional programme supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington DC, and implemented by two Indonesian organizations, PPMN and Perludem.
“The active and professional role of the media is a significant part in developing democracy and promoting the participative, inclusive, and accountable goals of any election,” said Theresia Joice Damayanti, the Chief of Party of RESPECT.
The conference included a seminar and mini-workshops featuring Professor Cherian George from Hong Kong Baptist University; a Thai senior journalist who obtained the International Press Freedom Award 2017, Pravit Rojanaphruk; a senior journalist, Malou Manangs, from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ); and the Editor in Chief of Kompas, Ninuk Pambudy. Professor Topo Santoso from the University of Indonesia, who is also a Board of Director of Perludem, presented analysis on the
situation of elections within the Southeast Asia region.
“This is the first time for Southeast Asian journalists to meet up in one forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities in producing independent election reports,” Ms. Damayanti said.
Ms. Mulia emphasized that such a forum is necessary for journalists in Southeast Asia, so that they can have cross-learning and share experiences related to existing challenges and issues.
During this regional conference, PPMN will announce the ExcEL Awards 2019 recipients. The ExcEL Awards are conferred by RESPECT to the best journalistic works on elections from Southeast Asia.
The award committee received more than a hundred journalistic works done by journalists from Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and the Philippines. These works are competing to receive the award for categories of breaking news, feature/in-depth story, investigation, and commentary.
The jury involved in evaluating these works and selecting winners came from five countries and include: Bambang Harymurti (senior journalist of TEMPO/ Indonesia), Tessa Bacalla (former Executive Director of SEAPA/the Philippines), Khin Maung Soe (senior journalist of DVB/Myanmar), Prof. Cherian George (Hong Kong Baptist University), and Pravit Rojanaphruk (senior journalist of Khaosod English/Thailand).