Internet access and censorship are the biggest challenges in Southeast Asia: Mong Palatino, Global Voices

by EM News January 08, 2015
Mong Palatino, one of the advisors for RightsCon 2015, is the Philippines’ first blogger-turned-legislator and the youngest elected representative in the legislative body. He is currently the regional editor for Southeast Asia at Global Voices Online. RightsCon is the premier summit series bringing together civil society, engineers, activists, lawyers, companies, and governments on the subject of the Internet and human rights. RightsCon happens for the first time in Southeast Asia in Manila, The Philippines, from March 24-25, 2015.

Internet access and censorship are the biggest challenges in Southeast Asia: Mong Palatino, Global Voices

1. Could you describe the work of your organisation?

Global Voices is a citizen media platform that highlights the perspectives and stories of ordinary people, especially those that are not often reported in mainstream media. Our volunteers translate, curate, and explain local narratives as we seek a better understanding of our world. We champion freedom of expression by highlighting the threats to online freedom as well as campaigning to defend free, open, and safe Internet.

2. Why do human rights on the Internet matter to you?
The Internet can empower lives and communities. That is why it must remain open and accessible. Individuals should be free to share their thoughts, develop online tools, and interact with other Internet users. A human rights framework should guide Internet governance to protect individuals and to unleash the democratic potential of the cyberspace.

3. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
There are two challenges in the region: improving Internet access, and fighting all forms of censorship and excessive Internet regulation. Related to these issues, we strive to protect the safety of individuals and institutions which are in the forefront of the campaign to promote Internet rights in their respective countries.

4. How do you interact with individuals and organisations in different sectors, civil society, corporate, tech, govt etc., to forward your goals?
As a former legislator, I am aware of the value of reaching out to policymakers and engaging them on issues that affect the Internet and the media. They should be part of the dialogue on how to protect the Internet and we strive as much as possible to promote this approach.

5. How do you see the Internet rights space evolving in the future?
Unfortunately, the trend in Southeast Asia is quite worrying since governments are inclined to prioritize legislations that would further restrict the media and the Internet. But the business side of expanding the telecommunications sector continues to grow. I think activists, the media sector, the academe, and other stakeholders should team up with telcos and IT firms to influence the Internet policies in the region. They can build a formidable lobby team to discuss human rights and prospects in the Internet sector with government officials and other leaders in the bureaucracy.

6. What do you hope to see achieved at RightsCon Southeast Asia? And why would you encourage people to attend?
RightsCon Southeast Asia is significant because it can come up with concrete proposals, alternative policies, and innovative programs that can be submitted to the ASEAN. The papers can be tabled for discussion in the ASEAN secretariat as the region prepares for the ASEAN 2015 integration. RightsCon is unique opportunity for Southeast Asia experts, leaders, investors and activists to sit down and discuss the crucial issues in the IT sector. It’s also a timely occasion to draft a plan on how to improve, maximize, and protect the positive legacy and potential of the Internet.