More and more civil society and advocates in East Asia are expressing their concerns on the rise of information manipulation to influence public views and behavior, mislead, incite hatred & fear and even revise factual historical accounts. At the margins of this year's East Asia Democracy Forum in Taipei, the Open Culture Foundation (OCF), together with EngageMedia, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), and Innovation for Change East Asia gathered digital rights advocates, journalists, bloggers, and citizen journalists from Northeast Asia from China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, and from Southeast Asia from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, for a 3-day workshop on June 26-28, 2018, to identify solutions & explore collaborations to combat disinformation in the region.
“We want to discuss the most pressing issue that impacts democracy today, and for us that is the rise of disinformation online. We want to come up with a comprehensive strategy against disinformation,” says Yu Hsuan Chang of OCF. OCF is a Taiwan-based organization supporting local communities advocate for open technologies.
Disinformation in Elections
A lot of countries in East Asia have experienced surge of disinformation on social media, specially during election season. In the Philippines, troll factories were employed to manufacture extremely divisive memes and revisionist historical narratives in the lead-up to the 2016 Presidential elections.
In Malaysia, Maryam Lee, a young feminist activist, recounted being the subject of disinformation during the recently concluded Malaysian general electoral campaign.
Maryam believes that spoiling ballots is a democratic right, and she, along with other activists in Malaysia campaigned for the hashtag #UndiRosak, as they don't want to vote for any of the candidates running that time. She was accused of being financially supported by the then government of Najib Razak. Even media outlets reported that Maryam was being “financially & politically” supported, and there were even posts circulated around that she was paid by Cambride Analytica, the consulting firm accused of illegally sourcing Facebook data using it to influence political campaigns. Maryam adds that the misinformation campaign led to people attacking her based on her gender, even after the elections.
Maryam was one of the participants in the Combatting Disinformation workshop who has pledged to collaborate with civil society across the region to assert that government censorship will never be a solution to address disinformation & misinformation.
During the workshop, there were also groups recommending to engage election monitors to address the disinformation challenge during election campaigns as it can greatly impact the electorates' decision on who to vote come election time. In this joint declaration on fake news, disinformation, & propaganda, released by freedom of expression monitors around the world, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, media outlets, in line with their watchdog role in society, are also encouraged to consider including critical coverage of disinformation and propaganda during elections.
Fact-checkers vs Disinformation
Fighting disinformation has led to a lot of organizations taking on fact-checking initiatives. There's Fact Check Initiative Japan & Cofacts in Taiwan. In the Philippines, Rappler and Vera Files, both teamed up with Facebook for a fact-checking program to prevent false news from spreading on the social media platform. In Malaysia, there's a very active facebook page called The Malaysian Feminist that fact-checks what is going viral in social media.
GarGar, Project Coordinator of the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO), also shares their initiatives on Digital Literacy, and a fact-checking crowdsourcing initiative on social media they call “Real or Not” in Myanmar.
Chihao of Watchout.tw adds their current contribution in the fight against disinformation. “We started as a Congressional watchdog organization. What we do at the core is we fact-check politicians and candidates on their claims and policies, and we find out what they've done in the past based on Congressional records and their past promises. We try to disseminate truthful information to fight disinformation.”
Disinformation Policies & Legislation
One of the key questions in the fight against disinformation is if legislation and/or criminalization the solution. Governments in Southeast Asia are in different stages of developing legislations/policies against what they call “fake news”. In Malaysia, an anti-fake news law was passed just before the elections, and activists and lawyers expressed concern on the speed that it was passed as it was very rushed, and how it will severely undermine right to freedom of expression in the country. In Singapore, according to Law and Home Affairs Minister Shanmugam, the new law to tackle the spread of fake news are expected to be introduced next year.
The Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media in the Philippines has also conducted hearings on fake news, which also led to the head of the committee Senator Grace Poe proposing a Senate Bill amending the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees, to penalize those in government who publish and/or spread false news or information in any platform.”
A lot of collaborative ideas popped up during the workshop in Taipei proving participants' aspiration to work together even after the workshop. There were groups who want to work on publishing a Study on Disinformation Laws and Policies in Asia that will provide a database of resources on laws, cases, updates, and statistics in the region. There were also groups looking at setting up a disinformation alarm/alert group for building solidarity that will serve as a ‘rapid response’ for journalists and fact checkers assisting each other in combatting disinformation. To address the issue of disinformation during elections, participants were eager in collaborating to monitor disinformation in elections, especially with several elections coming up in the region. There were also activists who are interested to pursue more digital literacy and digital activism trainings focusing on security, as well as looking at getting more converging initiatives of art and technology circles.
EngageMedia plans to support the collaborations identified in the workshop and beyond to also bring to the core the need to expand and strengthen the movement in the region in fighting social injustice and human rights violations online and offline.
Other Readings you may find useful on the topic of Disinformation:
Image credit: EM News
On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly in Paris promulgated The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
The Declaration consists of 30 articles elaborating an individual's rights which have been incorporated in subsequent international treaties, contracts, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s most translated document, in over 500 languages.
However, the Declaration has been increasingly under attack by governments and other actors trying to reduce it's scope and questioning it's relevance. To highlight what the Universal Declaration means for people in their everyday lives, the UN Human Rights has launched a year-long campaign titled #StandUp4HumanRights which will culminate on 10 December 2018, the day the World will celebrate the Declaration’s 70th anniversary.
The anniversary is a chance for the world to celebrate the gift of the Universal Declaration and to help reaffirm the enduring human rights principles and standards it has helped establish.
Human Rights Defenders In Peril:
In many countries of the world, community leaders, lawyers, journalists, civil society actors and other human rights defenders are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, intimidation and violence as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is undermined and ignored. Many human rights organizations are prevented from carrying out their work, banned or expelled from certain countries. An increasing number of governments are trying to prevent the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council from fulfilling their mission.
To address the concerns of the Human Rights Defenders, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the the ‘United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders’ in 1998. It aims to provide support and protection to human rights defenders (HRDs) in the context of their work and goes beyond the defenders outlining that every citizen has a role in promoting and protecting the human rights of all.
In the recent years, the human rights defenders all over the world were subjected to an increased level of intimidation and threats. In 2017, 197 environmental activists were murdered in the world for their work. In 2016, 281 people killed for defending human rights, up from 156 in 2015.
2018 marks the 20-year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development - Forum Asia believes that it is important to raise greater awareness about the UN Declaration On Human Rights Defenders. Particularly in Asia, there is limited access and visibility of the declaration and some people might not be aware that they are considered a ‘human rights defender’, which entitles them specific rights, as well as accords them certain responsibilities.
Forum Asia has published a number of posters to raise the awareness of the declaration in Asia:
The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst has published a concept note where he stated that the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of the Human Rights Defenders should serve an opportunity to make the Declaration more visible and more accessible to everyone. It should also be occasion to remember and celebrate those who dedicate their lives to the defense of human rights.
This report was first published in Voice Blog by Zack Lee, Linking and Learning Officer for Voice Indonesia and The Philippines with inputs from EngageMedia.
Voice Indonesia just had its first annual Linking & Learning (L&L) event last 15-19 April 2018 in Bali. There were 38 participants, including representatives from all 15 Voice Indonesia partners, EngageMedia (the L&L facilitator), and the country team. It was 5 days packed with activities which started in the morning and on most days stretched into the night. Participants had many opportunities to learn from each other as well as share what they know. There were a handful of serious discussions about individual work and how everyone can move forward together. There were also lighter moments of fun and laughter, especially lots of dancing as energizers and icebreakers. Everyone had kind words to say on the last day. One person simply said "Wow!" when asked what their final thoughts were. Another said, "It's like a movie in my head that I keep rewinding over and over again."
Looking back, it would have been presumptuous of me to say that I knew the event would be a success. But I knew it would. This does not mean I did not have my own worries. Certainly far from it. I wasn't sure if the program was coming together. I didn't know if all the details were ironed out. I had many questions in mind because I wasn't involved in the minute details of the planning as I have been before.
I knew the L&L event would be a success because I knew everything works out in the end. We had a great team in EngageMedia who had organized similar eventsbefore. I knew they regularly communicated with grantees through calls and emails explaining what is L&L and what were the intentions behind the event. They continuously asked what the participants wanted to learn and what can the participants share with others. Plus early on, we intentionally adopted an open approach to the event. This meant coming to terms with the sense of ambiguity and imprecision that comes with relying on the participation of everyone involved to set the agenda.
So at the end of the last day, I would have been surprised if the participants did not shed some tears of joy. They did. I would have been surprised if they were not effusive in their praise. They were. What surprised me though was that they felt INCLUDED. One participant said "This is what I want to have in my community." Another said, "This feels like being in a family." Inclusion is a bedrock principle within Voice. We commit to "Leave No One Behind". Yet, what does it mean in practice? More specifically, how did we apply it in planning and organizing the L&L event? Looking back, what were the steps we took to be inclusive?
Inclusive in the Logistics
First is that we took inclusion and accessibility as defining criteria in the planning process. We looked at our current group of grantees and identified what kinds of disabilities did we need to accommodate. We asked EngageMedia to choose a location that was accessible to someone with a mobility impairment. This meant all rooms needed to be accessible by someone using a wheelchair. If not, the hotel needed to provided alternatives such as ramps for participants. We knew that a few participants are deaf or have a hearing impairment. We budgeted for at least 2 sign language interpreters. Similar to oral language interpretations, sign language interpreters need someone to take over in order for them to take breaks and rest.
EngageMedia sent out a survey, which included questions on what other kinds of accommodations we needed to be aware of. Participants were also asked if they have any food restrictions due to health or cultural considerations. There was also a question on blood types in case of emergency situations.
We even had a long discussion about the planned field trip and excursion on the 4th day. After three long days of sometimes very intense sessions, we wanted participants to have a bit of a break and time to bond together outside. For some participants, it would have been their first time to be in Bali. The location needed to be something representative of Bali and Balinese culture, while still being interesting to those who have been there before. Since many locations required some travel and a bit of walking, we considered how strenuous it would be for our older participants. In the end, we decided to visit Uluwatu Temple and have a sunset dinner by the beach in Jimbaran.
Inclusive in the Agenda
Second is that we adopted an open space methodology when it came to designing the agenda. We intended to create a space where the participants were not simply passive recipients of new knowledge. We wanted everyone to see each other as a source of inspiration, someone they can learn from. They did not need to always turn to outside experts for new ideas and solutions. They have each other. Similar with the Voice Inclusion Innovation Indaba and EngageMedia's Coconet Digital Rights Camp, we relied on participants to create the agenda together as a community. They were able to propose ideas for breakout sessions, pitch what it will be about, and vote with their feet on which session they want to participate in.
Starting with the L&L kick-off event last November, we asked participants on multiple occasions what is it they expected and want to learn from the event. More importantly, we also asked what experience, knowledge, and expertise can they share with their fellow participants. Their responses were analysed to identify what were the most commonly mentioned. Participants who could respond to others' needs were encouraged beforehand to propose a session on those topics. There were no pre-determined format leading quite varied and diverse sessions. There were hands-on sessions on shooting and editing videos. There was a small-group discussion on HIV/AIDS. There were demonstrations on basic introductions and the alphabet using Indonesian sign language. Some participants even proposed completely new sessions as collaborations between them and someone with similar ideas. Space was also available for participants to organize sessions at night. A couple of participants organized a film screening on the living conditions of women market porters followed by questions and answers. Others continued or re-did their sessions from the previous days for those who were not able to join.
Partly inspired by the regional workshops on Inclusive Ways of Working, we also wanted to instil the concepts of inclusion and intersectionality in all participants. There were plenary sessions that responded to specific topics a majority of participants requested. Other plenary sessions however, focused on the experiences of a specific target group not as well represented in the current grantees. Presenters and facilitators were asked to present their topic in way that encourages others to see the intersectional nature of discrimination and what solidarity can mean to them.
We were lucky enough that our overall facilitator, Ani Himawati, understood immediately what we wanted to do for the whole event. She was open to different ideas and flexible to the changing dynamics as the event progressed. She invited anyone to lead icebreakers and energizers in between open and plenary sessions. There were lots of dancing involved, one of which Morgan led. His mother, Dewi, said that was the fastest she's seen him become comfortable with a large group of people.
On the last day, a participant nicely summarized the feeling that we were all aiming. He said he felt "there was no gap between us and the facilitator. We were all facilitators."
We can always do better
It was the last day and Oyok from PPSW Pasoendan was going to share her closing words. She held the mic in her hand, said one word and stopped. I could faintly hear a sound and that’s when I realized she was trying to hold back her tears. When she was able to speak, I was surprised. She said, it was the first time she felt included since becoming a mother. We always joked that the L&L event had 38 and a half participants because Oyok brought her 3-month old son, Azka. She said that she was very worried about coming to Bali because she had to bring her son. She was worried that she would not be able to participate or even worse, they would be disrupting the proceedings. I was surprised because I didn't even realize that it was a concern. I saw everyone taking turns watching over or carrying Azka. No one complained or mentioned anything to us about being disrupted. Nobody minded at all.
No matter how much planning we do, determining every detail, luck definitely played a role. We were lucky that everyone immediately took to taking of Azka nor did he even cry during any session. We were lucky enough that everyone was welcoming to each other, no matter their age, background, or ability. We were lucky enough that everyone wanted to participate and were open to learning from each other. We were lucky enough that there was a good balance between genders and ages. A couple of older participants even remarked that there were younger participants present. They were used seeing the same faces every time they attended events and were glad to see a new generation taking up their causes.
As much as we were touched by the kind words people said at the end, we know we could always do a better job of being even more inclusive. We realized that some of our energizers required active movement and listening to music. We neglected to find out how our deaf participants felt during those moments. We took it too lightly that none of the participants had mobility impairments as many of the spontaneously initiated group activities would have been exclusionary.
Yet, to do better, to be more inclusive, luck needs to be playing an even smaller role. We could do better in spontaneity by trying behave more thoughtfully. Inclusion requires us to be intentional in what we do and how we work. If we truly want to leave no one behind then luck needs to be increasingly excluded from our equation of success.
On the 3rd of April I arrived in Mumbai to participate in the Good Pitch India 2018 summit. This is my first time here.
Good Pitch is a non-profit initiative that leverages the power of documentary film to advance struggles for social, economic and environmental justice in India. It provides opportunities for documentary filmmakers to seek funding and other support for the projects they're working on. It was started by Doc Society, one of the leading initiatives for documentary filmmaking today.
Aside from providing support to the most important docs that we have seen the past years, Doc Society designed the Impact Field Guide and Toolkit. This field guide shows new and old documentary filmmakers alike how the power of their artistic craft in documenting social and environmental issues can catalyze change.
Good Pitch is a unique event for documentary filmmakers. Usually there are film festivals that showcase the finished works of filmmakers; grant bodies contacted by the filmmaker that may or may not provide funding.
Good Pitch is something more than this. It is an initiative that highlights social responsibility. The filmmaker is encouraged to produce a film based on realities faced by an individual or community and then the donor or supporter is brought to the arena by Good Pitch to provide possible support.
In India, the main partner for the event is the Indian Documentary Foundation, which did an excellent job of gathering funders, NGOs, distributors, ad agencies and other individuals from all backgrounds who may give financial and other kinds of support to the films.
Out of the 150 entries received by Good Pitch India 2018 last August, four films were selected to be part of the pitch. A series of workshops were facilitated by Doc Society to help the filmmakers develop the story of their film. In my conversations with the filmmakers, much attention has been given by Doc Society to ensure guidance with regards to the impact of their films.
A Marathi speaking middle class family, the Patils live in Mumbai, India. Suresh (53) is a lawyer. Archana (45) is a homemaker. Rashmi is their 20-year-old happy-go-lucky daughter.
Although hearing and speech impaired, she is a classical dancer and designs jewelry. In the center of the Patil family is Jatin (18). He is a person with autism.
2) Her Song
Her Song tells the story of three women from one of the lowest castes in India: the Banchara. Because of the intense prejudice this caste experiences, the men cannot find work. So for generations, the women and girls have prostituted themselves, often starting as young as 10 years old.
Every other home has a girl child missing in the village. A well known photographer journeys into the Sunderbans. Helped by two village girls they uncover a trail of intriguing clues to reveal the subcontinent’s darkest secret…
4) Writing With Fire
In one of the most socially oppressive and patriarchal states of India, emerges Khabar Lahariya. Meera, its popular reporter, leads the move to magnify the newspaper’s impact
with an audacious decision - to transform it from a print to a digital news agency. Working in media dark villages, mocked and discouraged, this is the story of a unique journalistic
movement in building what will be the world’s first digital news agency run entirely by rural women.
THE PITCH PROCESS
Each filmmaker was given seven minutes to pitch the film to an audience composed of potential funders and supporters. They showed the audience the most compelling images of the film they're working on. All of the filmmakers came with the protagonists of their films. The most touching moments of the event came from the short inspirational talk given by the films protagonists. After the presentation, a panel composed of foundations, NGOs, advertising and media companies and government agencies most likely to support to the film are given two minutes to react to the filmmakers' presentation.
Much of the event's highlights came from the overwhelming support of the people from the audience who spoke on the microphone to either give financial, material and even moral support to the protagonists and filmmakers. Not all the filmmakers were promised financial support, but the support pertaining to film distribution and free post-production services that were offered was overwhelming.
It was quite an experience to be inside an auditorium where art and film patrons who were mostly from cultural and civic organizations give a flow of support to the filmmakers and the protagonists of the films.
The protagonists of the film felt the impact of event, too. The journalists from Khabar Lahariya featured in the film Writing With Fire were given a brand new scooter by a businessman who attended the event. Archana and Rashmi, protagonists of the film Climbing Uphill, were promised financial investment by two patrons in their jewelry business.
EngageMedia expressed willingness to support Khabar Lahariya of the film Writing with Fire through digital security guidance. The rural women journalists use their smartphones a lot in their reportage. EngageMedia can give online tutelage in communicating online securely and access to apps that can help them in evidence gathering and human rights reportage. It was quite an experience for me, too, to talk in an auditorium where I see myself projected in a big screen to an audience of almost 250 people.
The event may have ended but our opportunity to support the films is still very much open. One of the filmmakers needed a couple of 4TB hard drives to expedite the continuity of his project. Good Pitch and other institutions expressed willingness to convene engagements between filmmakers and potential supporters.
To contact the filmmakers and to know more about the project, send a message to the event's Facebook Page.
Name: Hathairat Phaholtap (Wist)
Position: Senior Reporter
Organization: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)
Ms Hathairat Phaholtap (Wist) works with the Thai PBS Television as a senior reporter at their investigation desk. She is also a human rights defender and a documentary film maker who is dedicated to presenting human rights issues, especially during a time where press freedom in Thailand had been restricted and freedom of expression was limited.
Phaholtap recently got recognition from Thailand's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for her work. In 2014, the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was deposed in a military coup-detat and Thai PBS, along with 24 other television channels, were shut down by the military. Phaholtap recorded videos of herself reporting the turn of events in the streets of Bangkok and uploaded them on social media—Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. In absence of mainstream media reports, these online videos went viral.
In an exchange over email with EngageMedia she tells her story of courage by presenting the truth to the people of Thailand. Below are excerpts from the interview.
EM: How did it all start?
Wist: In 1999, I wanted to be a writer and went to study communications at a university in Bangkok. After graduation from the university, I got a job in a local newspaper as a journalist. For seven years I worked as a reporter covering usually politics. Then I decided to move to television because I thought that newspapers were becoming less relevant. As I started to work in TV, I discovered that I’m passionate about presenting the news on TV.
EM: Can you tell us in details about some of your notable films?
Wist: I do not think any one of my films are more or less relevant than the other. I like all of them because I dedicated all my energy working on them. However, there are 3-4 films that were impactful and were able to make a change in the society. The first one is the story about the conflict and peace in the southern border provinces of Thailand. Produced 5 years ago, this film was about a medical student who was detained by authorities and was not being treated fairly. Two weeks after I presented the film, the medical student was released and now he is a doctor at a public hospital in Bangkok. I cannot describe my feelings after I found out that he had been released. It was a joy that I had never felt before. Later, the film won the Human Rights Press Award from Amnesty International of Thailand.
The second story is about the impact of gold mining in the Central Region of Thailand. I discovered that mining in the area had caused pollution in local water and soil. The villagers were sick from chemicals which had leaked from the gold mine. I have been reporting on the impact of mines from 2014 onwards. In 2016, the mine was closed by the government after the scientists confirmed its adverse effect on the local people. In 2016, this story got a press award from Amnesty International, Thailand.
Another story from outside the country is also worth mentionable. It was the story of the Rohingyas who escaped the fate of genocide in Myanmar and entered Bangladesh. Many foreign news agencies were interested in this issue but only a few Thai media had traveled to report the situation in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Five years ago when many Rohingyas migrated from the Andaman Sea to the southern provinces of Thailand and became victims of human trafficking in Thailand, their plights caught my eyes and I have been monitoring this issue ever since. Last year, my story received a Human Rights Press Award from Amnesty International of Thailand.
EM: Which would you say is your favorite, among the films or reports that you've made?
Wist: I like all the movies that I made - I cannot say which one is my favorite. Every movie has a special place in my mind as they have meaning for me behind the scenes. If I only have to choose one, I might say I like the story about the deep-south, Thailand because I want to see “peace” after I screen them. I felt the urge to make them because I needed my films to help resolve the violence in that war zone. I think the three provinces of the southern border (Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat) have seen enough violence. The film should be completed very soon.
EM: What is the background to the story?
Wist: Every time I went to the southern border provinces I felt uncomfortable and insecure. In addition, I saw tanks used in local area and I saw battle at every corner. I saw military checkpoints all along the ways that I passed. I saw machine guns even in primary schools. I saw the distrust of the local people of the military and the government officials. I'm an outsider, but I am hopeful that they will end the violence with a peace talk.
EM: What were the opportunities you gained from producing the film?
Wist: Every time I filmed for this story I felt that I grew up. I learned a lot from traveling and talking to people. And it is very good if each documentary that I present can create opportunities for others. This is enough for a journalist.
EM: What first attracted you to work as a reporter?
Wist: When I was a student at university I saw a reporter in a news TV station doing very good investigative reporting. At that time, I told myself that one day I will be like them. When I had the chance to become a TV journalist, I did not hesitate.
EM: What are the challenges for you working in Thailand especially with current Social-Politico situations? What's the major threat now?
Wist: Reporting in Thailand after the military took over the country was quite difficult especially if you were covering political issues. Three-year ago, I presented a documentary titled “one year after the coup” which focused on freedom of expression of people after the coup. While I was working on this topic, I got a lot of pressures from different wings of military but I did not fear to carry on with my tasks. I completed three episodes of the series.
After they were aired, they became the talk of the town because at that time only a few journalists dared to cover this kind of story. I realized that we won’t have freedom if we were scared to speak out. That situation have passed and from that moment on I am never scared to speak out even though at present the Junta's era still persists. I'm still covering political issues and also highlighting some forbidden issues.
EM:. How can online distribution help your work, and what are your thoughts on online and offline distribution?
EM: I knew the influence of social media after the 2014 coup in Thailand. After the military Junta took power from the elected government on May 22, 2014, all TV channels were ordered to stop broadcasting. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took control of broadcast media. At that time, I used social media for reporting the forbidden situation to public and they went viral for the Thai community.
I think reporting online is a free platform that I can use without paying. It is the best way to use whenever the main stream media are under the control of the government.
EM: What are you working on now and what's your next project?
Wist: I am still interested in highlighting human rights abuses. I continue to cover human trafficking issues including the situation in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Of course, I still care about the violence in the southern border provinces of Thailand. I am preparing to make a film about the missing persons and the tortures in the southern border that is a huge problem in the area.
EM: Do you believe that films can change society?
Wist: Definitely, I believe films can change the society that is why I am still working as a journalist and a film maker. I think if the journalists are able to work hard enough our society can change for the better.
Menurut Committee to Protect Journalists (CIJ), sebuah organisasi global yang mengadvokasi kebebasan pers, Filipina dinilai sebagai salah satu negara paling berbahaya bagi nyawa wartawan. Beberapa bulan lalu saja, seorang wartawan di Mindanao meregang nyawa setelah peluru menembus kepalanya. Di Indonesia, menjadi wartawan juga sama mencekamnya. Kasus demi kasus penyerangan terlaporkan dan menurut Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), sebuah lembaga swadaya masyarakat, kasus kekerasan terhadap wartawan tengah meningkat. Sudah jelas, wartawan-wartawan di kedua negara ini dalam bahaya oleh karenanya mereka harus berupaya memproteksi diri mereka lebih baik lagi.
EngageMedia, sebagai bagian dari Cyber Steward Networks, melakukan serangkaian penelitian mengenai kondisi keamanan digital bagi wartawan di Indonesia dan Filipina. Dalam empat puluh wawancara, para wartawan mendiskusikan tingkat kesadaran mereka mengenai isu keamanan digital dan, jika ada, langkah-langkah dalam menanganinya.
Kami sebelumnya telah mempublikasikan hasil dari wawancara-wawancara kami di situs EngageMedia dalam dua unggahan blog: satu fokus pada kasus di Indonesia dan satu lagi di Filipina. Pembaca juga bisa menyaksikan video pendek yang kami buat untuk menjelaskan konteks Indonesia. Riset di dua negara ini memberikan peluang bagi studi komparasi. Di tulisan ini, kami akan menguraikan dan menganalisis beberapa isu terpenting mengenai keamanan digital yang tengah mencuat. Kami berharap tulisan ini memberikan wawasan lebih mengenai bagaimana wartawan mempersepsi dan mempraktikan keamanan digital.
Penyimpanan Data Online
Di era ini, wartawan umumnya menggunakan telepon genggam dan alat perekam digital untuk merekam wawancara. Semua foto, klip video, dan data audio menuntut tersedianya ruang penyimpanan data yang besar. Belum lagi data-data itu harus dijaga keamanannya, terutama dari pihak luar yang bisa punya niat jahat. Jika data-data kita simpan dengan melampirkannya dalam email, hal itu juga rawan karena email kita mudah diretas. Jika kita memilih ruang penyimpanan data cloud yang kini popular seperti Dropbox, Google Drive, atau Onedrive, data kita cenderung lebih aman. Data kita terenkripsi dan kita bisa membuat kata kunci yang berbeda bagi tiap aplikasi.
Meski demikian, tak ada satu pun dari alat penyimpanan data di atas yang menjamin keamanan data kita. Pemerintah dan industri hiburan (yang memproduksi komoditas yang ber-hak cipta) memberikan tekanan pada provider cloud untuk bisa mengakses sistem cloud untuk mencari apapun yang dianggap “illegal.” Edward Snowden bahkan menyatakan bahwa “Dropbox itu memusuhi privasi” dan ia juga menganjurkan kita untuk “menjauhi Google” dan pindah ke jasa penyimpanan data cloud lain seperti Spideroak yang mengenkripsi semua data dan menggaransi bahwa pihak Spideroak tak akan mampu mengakses data pelanggan mereka. Akhirnya, wartawan harus memahami aturan negara masing-masing mengenai jasa penyimpan data cloud.
Kami mendapati kenyataan yang mengejutkan bahwa wartawan di Indonesia sebagian besar tidak memahami masalah keamanan online (online safety) terutama berkenaan dengan keamanan jasa penyimpanan data. Dari sekian banyak wartawan yang kami wawancarai, hanya satu yang berupaya memproteksi data yang ia kumpulkan. Sebagian besar wartawan bekerja menggunakan laptop pribadi atau telepon pintar dan mereka menggunakan memori internal di laptop atau telepon pintar mereka untuk menyimpan data. Beberapa wartawan menyimpan informasi dengan memasukannya ke dalam arsip aplikasi percakapan seperti Whatsapp atau Line. Seorang wartawan mengatakan bahwa kantornya sering meminta wartawannya untuk menyimpan data atau mem-back up data di komputer kantor.
Ternyata, perusahaan media tempat para wartawan yang kami wawancarai bekerja tidak memiliki standar atau sistem baku mengenai penyimpanan data dan arsip. Lebih jauh lagi, wartawan yang menyimpan data di kantor umumnya tidak paham apakah data yang ia simpan di sana akan aman, dan apa yang terjadi jika data-data itu tidak tersimpan aman di sana. Di sebuah kantor media, kata kunci sebuah komputer bahkan dibagikan ke sesama karyawan di sana, hal ini berarti data bisa diakses, digunakan dan dihilangkan oleh banyak pihak. Berbagai wartawan mengonfirmasi bahwa membagi kata kunci adalah hal yang lumrah di kantor mereka.
Sementara itu, wartawan-wartawan senior di Filipina tidak membiasakan diri menyimpan informasi dalam perangkat elektronik mereka untuk menghindari peretas dan penyalahgunaan informasi. Ada beberapa wartawan yang kami wawancarai yang mengerti cara mengenkripsi data, namun mereka tidak secara konsisten mengenkripsi seluruh file mereka. Umumnya, wartawan di Filipina menganggap upaya mengamankan data dan mendalami sistem penyimpanan data online sebagai hal yang menantang. Butuh waktu banyak dan dukungan peralatan yang memadai dan biasanya mereka tak memiliki itu.
Satu dari beberapa cara terbaik untuk mengamankan data adalah dengan enkripsi. Di Indonesia kita tidak banyak menemukan wartawan yang secara aktif mengenkripsi data, meski pengetahuan dasar mengenai enkripsi mudah didapat. Keengganan mengenkripsi biasanya dikarenakan kurangnya pengetahuan mengenai apa itu enkripsi dan bagaimana ia bekerja. Realita di mana wartawan-wartawan di Indonesia mempraktikan data enkripsi sehari-hari sepertinya tidak akan terjadi dalam waktu dekat. Terlebih, tak satupun dari perusahaan media tempat wartawan yang kami wawancarai bekerja mempromosikan penggunaan enkripsi data.
Di Filipina, kami menemukan beberapa wartawan yang menggunakan alat enkripsi data. Namun, mereka tidak menggunakannya dengan konsisten dan praktik enkripsi tidak terintegrasi dengan budaya kerja sehari-hari. Setidaknya, wartawan di Filipina memiliki kesadaran lebih untuk melindungi data mereka dengan tidak menyimpan data yang sensitif secara digital.
Wartawan-wartawan di Indonesia dan Filipina umumnya tidak menyadari cakupan dari pengawasan digital (digital surveillance). Pengawasan biasanya dipersepsi sebagai pengawasan fisik, seperti dibuntuti oleh aparat pemerintah atau aparat sebuah perusahaan. Sebuah contoh dari kasus pengawasan digital terjadi di kawasan terpencil di Indonesia timur. Karena takut diancam dan diintimidasi seorang wartawan di sana mematikan telpon genggam ketika harus mendatangi kawasan tertentu, ia menghidupkan kembali telpon genggamnya setelah kembali ke daerah yang ia rasa aman. Dengan demikian, wartawan itu yakin bahwa pemerintah dan aparat militer tahu posisi keberadaanya. Wartawan lain yang bertugas di Jakarta mengatakan bahwa ia berhenti menggunakan akun sosial media agar aman dari intimidasi atau ancaman dari politisi dan atau pendukung sang politisi. Di Filipina, beberapa wartawan lebih memilih bertemu secara tatap muka dengan narasumber yang memiliki informasi sensitif dan menghindari penggunaan alat rekam karena mereka tahu ada resiko penyadapan.
Dari kasus di Indonesia dan Filipina, menjadi jelas bahwa wartawan di kedua negara ini sebagian besar masih tidak paham bagaimana internet bekerja, sehingga mereka tidak paham bagaimana pengawasan digital bekerja dan dampak dari internet yang mereka gunakan bagi keamanan digital mereka. Meskipun wartawan sadar bahwa pemerintah melakukan pengawasan, mereka tidak memahami level kecanggihan metode pengawasan yang sekarang bisa dilakukan negara.
Komunikasi antara Wartawan dan Narasumber
Kepraktisan adalah kualitas paling penting yang dicari oleh wartawan di Indonesia dalam berkomunikasi dengan narasumber mereka. Wartawan harus bisa menghubungi narasumber mereka dengan mudah dan cepat. Oleh karenanya mereka menggunakan platform yang sudah dikenal dan mudah untuk digunakan (seperti Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Line) untuk berkomunikasi. Hampir semua wartawan merekam wawancara-wawancara mereka dalam telpon genggam yang juga merupakan telpon pribadi mereka. Meskipun mereka sadar ada resiko yang mengancam, kepraktisan penggunaan telpon genggam mereka nilai lebih penting. Semua wartawan yang kami wawancarai mengatakan bahwa mereka mau mengganti perangkat mereka dengan yang lebih aman, asalkan praktis digunakan. Akhir-akhir ini, perusahaan media di Indonesia justru mendorong wartawan mereka untuk aktif menggunakan sosial media dan saluran komunikasi yang tidak aman lainnya, jadi hanya sedikit motivasi bagi para wartawan di Indonesia untuk beralih ke platform yang lebih aman.
Di Filipina, para wartawan lebih peka terhadap praktik komunikasi yang aman, namun tidak berarti mereka menggunakan saluran komunikasi yang terenkripsi. Keluhan yang sering terdengar adalah bahwa mereka tidak bisa memaksa narasumber mereka untuk berkomunikasi dengan cara yang mereka kehendaki. Justru biasanya sang narasumber yang berinisiatif untuk mengubah protokol atau cara berkomunikasi ke yang lebih aman. Dan jika narasumbernya tidak berinisiatif untuk mengubah cara berkomunikasi ke yang lebih aman, sang wartawan biasanya tidak proaktif mengusulkan cara yang lebih aman.
Secara keseluruhan, kami mengobservasi bahwa kepraktisan sangatlah penting. Jika sebuah sarana atau platform tidak secara masif digunakan dan tidak praktis, wartawan tidak akan tertarik menggunakannya, meskipun sarana itu lebih aman.
Komunikasi antar Wartawan dan dengan Perusahaan Media
Di samping menerima informasi langsung (seperti tatap muka atau panggilan telpon) dari kantor mereka (agensi media/perusahaan media), wartawan di Indonesia juga menerima dalam jumlah besar informasi dari grup-grup Whatsapp. Grup-grup Whatsapp ini memiliki jumlah yang sangat banyak, sebagian besar adalah wartawan, dan grup ini menjadi ruang berdiskusi mengenai apa saja. Di Indonesia, banyak wartawan mengatakan bahwa mereka banyak belajar dari grup-grup ini. Kebanyakan percakapan penting antar wartawan terjadi di media sosial dan grup-grup Whatsap.
Beberapa perusahaan media di Indonesia menggunakan Whatsapp untuk berkoordinasi dengan reporter mereka di lapangan. Lagi-lagi hal ini dikarenakan saluran ini adalah yang paling praktis dan cepat untuk berkomunikasi. Penggunaan email semakin terasa usang. Email semakin dianggap tidak bisa diandalkan di dalam era live chat dan streaming. Para wartawan di Indonesia mengeluh bahwa email seringkali tidak dibalas atau mereka menunggu balasan terlalu lama.
Ada perdebatan yang tengah berlangsung mengenai keamanan penggunaan Whatsapp. Konsensus umum menyatakan bahwa sejak Facebook, sebagai pemilik Whatsapp, memperkenalkan end-to-end encryption pada Whatsapp di tahun 2016, aplikasi ini semakin aman. Untuk pemahanan sederhana mengenai perbedaan antara enkripsi dan enkripsi end-to-end dan juga sebagai saran praktis mengenai bagaimana agar percakapan online kita aman, silakan baca artikel mengenai NetAlert. Seperti wartawan yang kami wawancarai, pengembang alat komunikasi online harus menyeimbangkan antara kegunaan dan keamanan. Untungnya perubahan tengah terus digenjot. Setidaknya, para wartawan terus up-to-date terhadap syarat dan kebijakan privasi (terms and privacy policies) dalam aplikasi komunikasi online yang mereka gunakan.
Sementara itu di Filipina, kebanyakan wartawan yang kami wawancarai menggunakan Facebook untuk berkomunikasi. Ada cukup banyak perusahaan media yang menggunakan Grup-grup Facebook sebagai sarana penugasan reportase. Kebanyakan dari wartawan di sana menggunakan satu akun Facebook untuk urusan pekerjaan dan urusan pribadi. Bagi mereka, Facebook mempermudah dan mempercepat urusan mereka.
Wartawan Paruh Waktu versus Wartawan Tetap
Beberapa agensi berita di Filipina menentukan standar bagi wartawannya dalam penggunaan sosial media. Meski demikian, sulit ditemukan standar dalam urusan keamanan digital. Berbagi perangkat digital masih sangat umum dilakukan di tempat kerja mereka dan tidak banyak yang mereka lakukan untuk mengamankan data mereka. Selama acara forum publik yang kami gelar di Manila, ada rekomendasi bahwa agensi-agensi media semestinya mulai fokus pada keamanan digital. Menurut seorang peserta forum, agensi media saat ini tidak memiliki mekanisme akuntabilitas. Oleh karenanya, agensi-agensi besar seharusnya mulai menerapkan standar keamanan kerja terhadap wartawan-wartawannya dan menjadi yang terdepan dalam penerapan kebijakan keamanan digital.
Keadaan di Indonesia tidak berbeda, agensi-agensi media tidak memiliki kebijakan keamanan digital bahkan aturan minimal mengenai keamanan digital juga tak mampu mereka tegakkan. Para wartawan saling berbagi kata kunci komputer, sebuah perangkat digital digunakan baik untuk keperluan professional maupun personal. Kami bahkan mendengar lebih dari sekali bahwa transkrip wawancara dan dokumentasi milik narasumber disimpan di aplikasi percakapan Whatsapp. Para wartawan yang kami wawancarai tidak menganggap hal-hal itu sebagai masalah.
Di Filipina, wartawan paruh waktu tidak memiliki standar keamanan digital sama sekali. Keamanan dinilai atas dasar pengetahuan dan pengalaman pribadi belaka tanpa standar yang jelas. Di Indonesia, wartawan paruh waktu tidak kami wawancarai.
Di Filipina, semua wartawan menyatakan bahwa mereka ingin memperketat keamanan digital mereka. Hasil wawancara memperlihatkan bahwa para wartawan punya keinginan untuk mengikuti pelatihan keamanan digital. Baru-baru ini pihak yang menawarkan pelatihan biasanya adalah kelompok-kelompok pembela hak-hak digital (digital rights) secara umum yang tidak menekankan isu-isu keamanan digital dalam kehidupan sehari-hari terutama untuk wartawan.
Pelatihan keamanan digital harus sampai menyentuh ranah praktik dan mulai fokus pada realita pekerjaan wartawan. Contohnya, dalam situasi di mana seorang wartawan baru menyelesaikan sebuah wawancara dan merekamnya dalam telpon pintar, apa yang harus ia lakukan terlebih dulu sebelum ia mengakses internet lagi dengan telpon yang sama? Atau, bagaimana data ini harus ditransfer dengan aman ke kantor? Seorang jurnalis senior yang kami wawancara bahkan menyarankan bahwa perusahaan media yang lebih besar dan juga universitas harus menetapkan standar dan menawarkan pelatihan keamanan dan keselamatan digital kepada wartawan-wartawan dan mahasiswa jurnalistik.
Di Indonesia, tak satupun wartawan ditawari pelatihan keamanan digital selama mereka bekerja. Mereka langsung dikirim ke lapangan tanpa dibekali pengetahuan keamanan digital telebih dulu. Para wartawan mempelajari keamanan digital biasanya dari teman-temannya, mereka berbagi pengalaman dan tips. Yang mengejutkan, hanya sebagian kecil saja dari mereka memiliki ketertarikan untuk mempelajari lebih lanjut keamanan digital. Wartawan di Indonesia umumnya merasa keadaan aman-aman saja. Terlebih, para wartawan di Indonesia umumnya tidak tahu bahwa pelatihan keamanan digital itu sebetulnya ada. Situasi di Indonesia sungguh kontras dengan tingginya keinginan untuk mempelajari keamanan digital dalam diri para wartawan yang kami wawancarai di Filipina.
Di kedua negara, kami tidak mendapati wartawan yang aktif mempelajari keamanan digital. Kebanyakan wartawan bahkan terkejut bahwa internet menyediakan pengetahuan yang amat banyak tentang keamanan digital.
Di Filipina, sekitar 50 persen wartawan tidak memiliki latar belakang pendidikan di bidang jurnalistik. Mereka rata-rata masuk ke ranah jurnalistik melalui keaktifan mereka di kampus sebagai wartawan majalah atau koran kampus. Di Filipina, keamanan digital bukan bagian dari kurikulum pendidikan jurnalistik. Hanya program pasca sarjana di University of the Philippines yang menawarkan kelas mengenai media dan teknologi, kelas ini mendiskusikan keamanan digital meski tidak terlalu terstruktur.
Di Indonesia, 90 persen wartawan mengecap pendidikan jurnalistik atau berkuliah di program studi jurnalistik. Meski demikian, materi perkuliahan mengenai keamanan digital absen dari kurikulum jurusan jurnalistik di Indonesia. Kami melakukan penelusuran mengenai kurikulum program studi jurnalisme di Indonesia dan hingga hari ini tidak ada satupun kampus jurnalistik yang memberikan perhatian kepada keamanan digital. Seorang wartawan mengatakan bahwa peningkatan keterampilan jurnalistik bisa didapat dengan mengikuti workshop atau dengan bergabung dengan pers mahasiswa di masing-masing kampus.
Oleh karenanya, untuk menjadi seorang wartawan seseorang tidak mutlak memerlukan ijazah jurnalistik. Melainkan lebih ditentukan oleh pola pikir dan gairah untuk menulis berita. Materi pengetahuan dan keterampilan mengenai keamanan digital oleh karenanya lebih cocok diberikan kepada wartawan yang sudah aktif di lapangan.
Kami bisa menyimpulkan bahwa baik di Indonesia maupun di Filipina, kesadaran wartawan terhadap keamanan digital itu rendah. Situasi ini tercermin dari praktik bekerja mereka yang tidak aman. Di Filipina, kesadaran wartawan tentang keamanan digital lebih baik dibandingkan dengan wartawan di Indonesia.
Wartawan itu rentan mendapatkan ancaman dan intimidasi di dunia maya, meski demikian mereka tidak dapat banyak dukungan dari perusahaan media tempat mereka bekerja untuk mengantisipasi ancaman dan intimidasi itu. Kesempatan untuk mempelajari keamanan digital tersedia dan sangat mudah didapat di internet, namun para wartawan tidak banyak yang mengetahuinya, atau enggan mengaksesnya. Karena materi keamanan digital di internet kebanyakan berbahasa Inggris, kendala bahasa juga bisa menjadi sebuah faktor penghambat.
Wartawan ada dalam kondisi sulit untuk membuat perubahan. Agensi-agensi media tidak punya kebijakan keamanan digital dan tidak memiliki tanggung jawab untuk mulai mendorong praktik pengamanan data digital dalam organisasi mereka. Pilihan untuk menggunakan sarana komunikasi dan sarana penyimpanan data digital umumnya dipicu oleh tawaran dari narasumber dan jejaring komunikasi yang ada.
Sarana komunikasi yang popular tidak serta merta memiilki protokol keamanan yang memadai. Sejak Whatsapp memperkenalkan enkripsi end-to-end, aplikasi percakapan ini memang menjadi lebih aman. Ini merupakan hal penting karena Whatsapp sangat popular digunakan oleh wartawan, terutama di Indonesia, sebagai alat rekam wawancarai dan untuk menjalin komunikasi dengan narasumber atau dengan kolega.
In August, a Filipino journalist was shot to death as he rode his motorcycle in Mindanao. It’s the latest death in a country that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CIJ), a global advocate for press freedom, ranks as one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.
Nor is Indonesia far behind. Regular cases of assault are reported in this country and violence against journalists is on the rise, according to the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), a nongovernmental union.
It is clear that journalists in both these countries are at risk and need to better protect themselves, so EngageMedia conducted research to better understand the current status of digital security for Indonesian and Philippine journalists, and to compare the difference between these countries.
This work was done as part of the Cyber Stewards Network and involved interviewing over 40 Indonesian and Philippine journalists about their awareness of digital security issues, and what they were doing to keep safe.
We have shared the results of these interviews in two previous blog posts: one on Indonesia and the other one on the Philippines. You can also watch our short video that explains the Indonesian context.
In this new blog post, we will outline and comment on some of the most important issues that came up, and provide more insight on how journalists perceive and practise digital security.
Online Data Storage
Today, journalists predominantly use mobile phones and digital recording devices to record interviews. All these photographs, video clips and audio files require a considerable amount of storage space, and that data storage needs to be secure so that people can’t access these files without permission.
If a journalist saves data by attaching it to an email, anyone hacking his or her email account can access those files. Stored data is slightly safer when journalists use popular cloud storage providers like Dropbox, Google Drive or Onedrive. The data is encrypted and separate passwords are needed.
However, none of these cloud storage providers can guarantee the safety of your data. Governments and the entertainment industry are also putting increasing pressure on these companies to search for anything deemed “illegal”, which means there are certain provider employees that can access the stored data.
Edward Snowden has even stated that “Dropbox is hostile to privacy” and he also urges users to “avoid Google” and switch to cloud storage services like Spideroak, which encrypts all data and guarantees that it can’t access the files of its users.
Finally, journalists should be aware of the laws in their respective countries regarding cloud storage.
Strikingly, Indonesian journalists are generally unaware about the online safety of their data storage. Only one of the interviewed journalists put some effort into protecting their collected data.
Most journalists work on their personal laptops or mobile phones and use the internal phone and/or laptop memory to store data. Others save information by storing it inside the archives of chat applications like WhatsApp or Line.
A journalist working for a media company told us that employers often ask journalists to save their data at the office and/or back it up on an internal computer. However, these media companies have no standards or systems for storage and archives. Furthermore, the journalists who stored data at the office didn’t really know what happened to it or whether it was stored safely.
At one particular office, computer passwords are also shared amongst colleagues, which means stored data can easily be accessed, used and/or altered. Other journalists confirmed that sharing passwords is a common practice at their workplaces.
Overall, Philippine journalists were more aware of data security and took better care of their data than their Indonesian counterparts although they still struggled with the day-to-day challenges of ensuring secure data storage.
Most veteran journalists in the Philippines do not keep any sensitive information on electronic devices, because they feel they might be hacked. In general, journalists in the Philippines find it challenging to ensure better filing and storage systems, as it requires more time and resources, which they usually do not have.
One of the best ways to secure data is through encryption. In Indonesia, we didn’t find any journalists encrypting data although they had some basic knowledge of encryption. Their reluctance to encrypt is usually due to a lack of understanding about what encryption actually is and how it works. And none of their employers are encouraging the practice.
It’s seems unlikely that Indonesian journalists will incorporate data encryption practices into their everyday working habits, anytime soon.
In the Philippines, we found some journalists using data encryption tools. However, they didn’t do it consistently and these processes were not integrated into their working practices.
Journalists in both countries are generally unaware of what digital surveillance entails. Surveillance is mostly perceived as physical surveillance i.e. government officials or company security officials following them around.
An example of digital surveillance awareness was found in a remote area of Indonesia. One interviewed journalist in the Eastern part of Indonesia reported turning off his mobile phone when he was heading to a certain region because he was afraid of being harassed or intimidated. He would only turn it back on after returning. By doing so, the journalist tried to make sure the government and the military were not aware of his whereabouts.
Another journalist in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, reportedly stopped using all social media accounts to protect himself from intimidation or threats by politicians and/or their followers.
In the Philippines, some journalists prefer to meet face to face with sensitive sources, and they don’t use any devices when meeting them, as they know they are vulnerable to being compromised.
However, it is clear that journalists in both countries are still hugely unaware of how the internet works, and so they don’t understand how digital surveillance works or the impact of their own internet usage on their digital security.
Although journalists are aware that governments conduct surveillance, they are not aware of the sophisticated surveillance methods and tools that states have at their disposal.
Communication Between Journalists and Sources
In Indonesia, practicality is the most important quality for journalists when it comes to communicating with sources. Journalists need to contact their sources quickly and easily, so they use existing easy-to-use, well-known platforms (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Line) to communicate.
Almost all Indonesian journalists record interviews on mobile phones, which are also for personal use. Even though they are aware of the security risks, ease of use is deemed more important. All the interviewed journalists said they would be willing to use safer communication channels so long as they were simple to use.
Currently, media companies in Indonesia encourage their journalists to use social media and insecure channels to communicate, so there is little incentive for Indonesian journalists to switch to safer platforms.
In the Philippines, journalists are more conscious of safer communication practices, but do not generally use encrypted communication channels. An often-heard complaint is that they cannot force their sources to use certain kinds of communication channels.
If the journalists use different protocols or safer ways of communication, the sources have generally initiated their use. And if the source does not suggest a secure manner of communicating, the journalist does not usually offer safer measures.
Overall, practicality is pivotal for journalists in both countries. If a tool or platform does not have a large user base and is not easy to use, journalists will not be interested in using it, even if it supports more secure communication.
Communication Among Journalists and With Their Agencies
Apart from receiving information directly (e.g. in person or through a phone call) from their employers (agencies/media companies), Indonesian journalists get the bulk of their information through WhatsApp groups.
These WhatsApp groups have a large number of members and they're mostly journalists who discuss just about anything. In Indonesia, many journalists said they learned a lot through these groups. Most of the important conversations between journalists take place through social media and WhatsApp groups.
Some Indonesian media companies are using WhatsApp to coordinate with reporters on the ground, and journalists told us it is the fastest and most practical way to communicate. Emails are also becoming obsolete because they are generally regarded as unreliable in the era of live chat and streaming. Indonesian journalists complain that emails often receive no response or they have to wait too long for an answer.
But there’s ongoing debate about the safety of WhatsApp. Since the platform’s owner, Facebook, introduced end-to-end encryption to WhatsApp in 2016, the general consensus is that the product has become a lot safer.
For a simple overview of the differences between encryption and end-to-end encryption, as well as valuable practical advice on how to keep your chats secure, read this NetAlert article.
Just like the journalists we interviewed, developers of online communication tools must strike a balance between usability and security, and thankfully changes are constantly being made. At best, journalists stay up to date on the terms and privacy policies of the online communication services they are using.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, most of the interviewed reporters primarily use Facebook to communicate. There is even a media outlet that uses Facebook Groups to send reporting assignments to their teams. Most of the journalists use the same account on Facebook to communicate for both work and personal reasons. For them, it’s easier to use Facebook as it’s faster.
Freelance Journalists Versus Agency-based
Several news agencies in the Philippines impose standards on their journalists for social media use. However, we found hardly any standards on digital security. Sharing of devices is still commonplace and little is done to safely manage the data stored on them.
During our public event in Manila, a strong recommendation was made for major news agencies to start focusing on digital security. According to participants in the forum, news agencies currently have no accountability mechanisms. They argue that bigger agencies should start imposing safe working standards on their journalists and become the front-runners of digital security policies.
The situation in Indonesia is similar. Agencies have no digital security policy in place, and they are not enforcing the few rules relating to digital security. Journalists share passwords to computers, devices are used both personally and professionally, and more than once we heard of interview transcripts and the documentation of sources being saved in WhatsApp chats. Interviewed journalists did not see this as a problem.
In the Philippines, freelance journalists did not have any standards at all. They just try to stay safe according to their own judgement. In Indonesia, we did not interview any freelance journalists.
In the Philippines, all interviewed journalists said they wanted to strengthen their digital security. Our interview results show there is interest among journalists to undergo digital security training. Currently, the organisations offering training are digital rights advocacy groups who address digital security issues in ways that do not relate to the everyday reality of journalists.
Digital security trainings should therefore be more practical and focus on the working reality of journalists. For instance, in a situation where a journalist has just finished an interview and recorded it on his/her phone, what should they do before going online again with that device? Or how should this data be transmitted safely to the office?
A veteran journalist we interviewed suggested that bigger media companies and universities should set the trend and offer digital safety and security trainings to reporters and aspiring journalism students.
In Indonesia, none of the journalists were offered training before or during their employment. They were simply sent into the field to start working. These journalists usually learn by sharing experiences and tips with their peers.
Surprisingly, few journalists were actually interested in learning more about digital security. The general feeling is that things are safe. Moreover, journalists in Indonesia were largely unaware of the possibility of training themselves in digital security and that such trainings existed.
In both countries, we found no journalists educating themselves. Many were surprised to learn that there is a wealth of information available online about digital security.
In the Philippines, around 50 percent of journalists have not received any formal education in journalism. Instead, they entered the field through their activities as writers for university newspapers and magazines.
Digital security is not part of journalistic education although a new post-grad course on media and technology at the University of the Philippines does discuss digital security issues, albeit not in any structured form.
In Indonesia, almost 90 percent of the interviewed journalists received formal education that focused on journalism or they attended journalism schools. However, information and teaching on digital security was absent in all programs.
Our desktop research in Indonesia also shows that there is no attention given to digital security at the major higher education institutions offering degrees in journalism. One journalist also told us that more advanced journalistic skills were gained by attending workshops or by joining student press clubs in university.
In general, a degree in journalism is not always required to become a journalist in both these countries; it’s more about the mindset and passion for writing stories. It is therefore best to give any additional education to journalists already in the field.
Journalists’ awareness of digital security is low in both Indonesia and the Philippines. This situation is reflected in their often-unsafe working practices - although awareness of digital security issues is better among journalists in the Philippines than among Indonesian journalists.
Journalists are vulnerable and do not receive much support from their agencies. There is online information on how to digitally protect yourself, but journalists are generally unaware of these opportunities or don’t make use of them. Most of the online resources are in English so the language barrier could also be a factor.
Journalists are also in a difficult position to make changes. Agencies have no digital security policies and do not feel obliged to start pushing for better digital security practices within their organisations.
Sources and networks influence journalists’ choice of communication and storage tools, but these popular tools may not have secure communication protocols. WhatsApp, a popular tool, has become safer to use since end-to-end encryption was introduced in 2016. This is especially important for Indonesia where the majority of interviewed journalists are highly dependent on WhatsApp for communication and storage.
Besides training, more effort should be put into raising awareness of digital security, and we hope our research is a step in the right direction. Please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below with your thoughts, as we are keen to continue this important conversation.
As part of EngageMedia’s syllabus on using video for social change, our Communications and Outreach Coordinator conducted a number of related sessions at COCONET, the Southeast Asia Digital Rights Camp.
One of these was the workshop on mobile video production, with was held with a group of participants from across the region, working in various fields such as journalism, human rights activism and digital security. The goal of the workshop was to explain the usefulness of mobile devices to document and advocate critical social issues, the social impact that effective video content can have, and teach participants how to produce short videos themselves.
The session began with a sharing of statistics and examples of how mobile video is used and consumed, after which participants were taken through a detailed list of best practices for recording on mobile devices. These included technical considerations such as stability, lighting, sound, quality settings and memory, but also ethical considerations such as privacy and security for both documenters and subjects. Co-facilitator Prakkash from WITNESS also shared some tools and tips for recording video as evidence.
We then conducted an exercise, where the facilitators interviewed each other and all participants were asked to record the scene as if they were journalists live at the scene. This spontaneous segment was useful to practice and reflect on the technical aspects that were shared earlier and how to maximize the somewhat limited capabilities of mobile devices. Here, Prakkash also showed some gadgets that could be purchased to help improve the quality of footage recorded on mobile phones, such as mobile tripods and portable microphones.
The second half of the workshop involved taking participants through the essentials of recording preplanned video interviews. To make their footage look as professional as possible, they were shown how to frame their shots using the rule of thirds and enhancing them by looking more closely at location, lighting and context. Other topics that were touched on included the 5 basic shots in videography, cutaways, storyboarding, mobile and desktop editing tools, and online sharing platforms.
After a demonstration on how to position their crew, the participants were then put into groups of four where they assigned each other as interviewers, interviewees, videographers and directors. Using all the principles they had learned so far, they were assigned to produce one minute video interviews. The groups came with a great four videos, which were shared to entire group and evaluated collectively, with comments made on the content and technical quality.
We concluded the session by looking at measuring the qualitative and quantitative impact of online video. We also reiterated the importance for civil society to use online video in their work, sharing a statistic that states that, “By 2021, internet video traffic will account for over 80% of all consumer Internet traffic.” Video is the medium of the future, and we’re all able to harness it’s power using the tool in our pockets.
Find out more about COCONET, the Southeast Asia Digital Rights Camp here.
From 23 to 27 October 2017 in Indonesia, EngageMedia, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) along with key regional allies, hosted COCONET, a Southeast Asia Digital Rights camp.
With over 100 participants Southeast Asia and beyond, the camp was a great platform to share and exchange ideas, projects, skills and tools. Some of the goals also included looking at potential collaborations between participants post-event and building a regional movement for digital rights.
In this post we'd like to share video interviews featuring some of the interesting people who are working on digital rights and human rights issues in their respective countries. They speak about their work and their experiences as well as learnings at COCONET. The interviews were recorded by filmmakers who were participants themselves.
Cathy, vlogger and women's rights activist, Cambodia
Ilang-Ilang, filmmaker and journalist with Altermidya, The Philippines
Wai Phyo, Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, Myanmar
Chat, Association for Progressive Communications, The Philippines
Jeremy, LGBT rights advocate, Malaysia
Read more about COCONET here.
Social struggles and movements have changed over time, constantly adapting to realities of the challenges and technologies of the day. As the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) ICT Master plan picks up pace, and people across the region invite digital technologies into their lives in more pervading ways, the effects of technology on people and human rights challenges online should not be ignored.
In line with this, EngageMedia and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), collaborated with EMPOWER Malaysia, Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), and Viet Tan to hold 'TECH. ACTIVISM. HUMAN RIGHTS.', a roundtable discussion on the state of activism and digital rights in Southeast Asia on 10 November 2017 at the Journalism Department of University of the Philippines Diliman, College of Mass Communications. Over 35 human rights defenders from ASEAN region met to discuss a range of challenges they are facing online.
“The internet has undeniably opened up spaces for us to challenge and discuss social and environmental issues in a way that was simply not possible before,” remarked Don Le of Viet Tan. To this, Thilaga of ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and Justice for Sisters Malaysia responded by saying, “the mere availability of technology and access to the internet does not make us equals. The discrimination groups and individuals face in offline spaces, especially those belonging to LGBTQIA communities is real and in some ways has been exasperated by the internet.”
The participants of the roundtable debated on the role the internet has played in addressing social and political issues in the region. “Religion is a burning issue in Indonesia. Hate has turned into a business for economic and political gain, executed in a professional and organised manner,” warned Anton from SAFENET Indonesia. Discussants from the Philippines debated over the validity of the discourse on “fake news”, stating that the phrase is an oxymoron and that the real issue rests with disinformation, the solution to which can only be more news, more speech, and not criminalisation.
Ed Legaspi of SEAPA explained that, “the rights we enjoy and are entitled to offline apply online as well. Therefore, the guarantees including freedom of expression should remain the same online as has been affirmed by the United Nations Human Rights Council repeatedly.” Gayatri Khandhadai of APC added by saying, “human rights are not platform specific and we carry our rights to all spaces, irrespective of whether they are online or offline.” Several concerns were raised about laws being applied to online activities which criminalise expression and stiffen democratic discussions.
Touching on the efforts made so far in ASEAN, Lisa Garcia of Foundation for Media Alternatives noted that, “there is a pressing need for individuals to engage in internet governance spaces including national and regional fora.” Nica Dumlao, EngageMedia’s Digital Rights Coordinator added by saying that, “we need to take technology-related discussions to all our spaces and communities, it is an issue that affects us all”. Nica noted that the roundtable discussion is part of a bigger initiative of digital rights organizations in Southeast Asia to raise awareness on digital rights and how technology is impacting the work of civil society.
'TECH. ACTIVISM. HUMAN RIGHTS' was one of EngageMedia’s activities during the ASEAN Civil Society Conference / ASEAN Peoples Forum 2017 (ACSC/APF 2017) in Manila, Philippines. The ACSC/APF is a solidarity gathering of diverse civil society organizations (CSOs) in Southeast Asia, which organizes its own parallel activities during the ASEAN Summit.
EngageMedia also collaborated with feminist & queer activists and organized a pop-up installation and discussion entitled, “Imagining a Feminist & Queer Internet in Southeast Asia” on 12 November.
*With report from the Association for Progressive Communications