From 5-7 October 2016 organisations from all over Asia participated in the Regional Meeting for the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This meeting aimed to strengthen APC's regional strategy for 2017 and beyond.
One of the key points that arose was attempting to find a better way for collaboration between APC members in the Asia region. The participants were also concerned with how this regional collaboration on technology and information can cover gender and sexuality challenges that are specific to particular countries. These points will continue to be discussed in the APC Paper about Theory of Change and Strategy for 2016-2019.
In discussing cutting-edge technology participants raised concern about problems of access to information and technology in the Asia regions. There was discussion about the social and economic costs of network shutdowns on freedoms and human rights in the Indian sub continent. APC also endeavoured to develop a framework on last mile access to examine which countries do not allow community networks, an issue faced in Argentina and which are wireless, like Nepal.
The participants also explored the possibilities of holding a national school for internet governance in Asia so that any member can replicate this in their home country. There was also suggestions to facilitate participation in the design of digital rights camps in South East Asia or more widely, South Asia.
The meeting was closed by a short conference with Bangladesh Minister of Information & Communication Technologies and received a lot of coverage from the Bangladeshi media.
On 12 April 2016, nine women from Mount Kendeng, Rembeng regency of Central Java encased their feet in cement in front of the State Palace, Jakarta in protest against the construction of a PT Semen cement plant.
The women hoped that the protest would symbolise the ‘shackling’ of their lives and their environments by cement. Riem Ambarwati, one of the protesters, described cement as ‘dead earth’ because no living thing can grow within it (Coconuts).
PT Semen began construction of their plant in June 2014 and have since experienced massive community backlash. The communities of Kendeng and also Pati, Grobogan and Blora, where other cement companies have plans to build; are mostly farmers and are concerned that the plant, being build upon the Watuputih groundwater basin area will greatly diminish their primary water source and so impact upon their livelihoods as farmers. The communities also point out that they have always been able to support themselves through farming and do not need or desire the jobs that the cement plants will provide.
The plant could potentially cause the loss of 51 million litres of water. Aside from community opposition the construction of the plant has met with opposition from environmental activists and academics who insist that the mountainous karst area must be preserved. The mining of limestone in the karst region, necessary for the production of cement will have detrimental impacts on the mountains underground water channels that provide water not only to the immediate area but also carry water farther afield.
The Kendeng community were granted an audience with President ‘Joko’ Jokowido who ordered further strategic environmental assessment (KLHS) and all permits to be annulled for the duration of the study. The assessment will involve the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and is estimated to take one year.
The affected communities still fear that this will not deter activities at the plant and plead for a respect of their environment and for dialogue between industrial contractors and local land holders, who in this case had never been previously consulted regarding the construction of the plant.
Natalie Anne Stuart
Khaw Than: A Call in Need is a 3 month film tour in Myanmar organised by EngageMedia. The tour, consisting of screenings and discussions, will be held in Yangon and Mandalay and features a collection of films about the rise of minority rights and interfaith issues.
Over the past few years, minority groups in Myanmar have been victim to increases in discrimination resulting in fear, violence and a regional refugee crisis. Despite the end of military dictatorship and more attention from the international media, the situation is not improving. To aid in this outreach to the media, many filmmakers based in Myanmar have produced documentaries aimed at the international market.
EngageMedia decided to join in this advocacy effort to foster an understanding of minority rights issues by holding a total of 6 film screenings in the country as well as highlighting the issues through an online campaign.
The first screening took place in collaboration with Phandeeyar at their office on the 26 October. We made an open call to those interested within the community and over 80 people attended.
The films that were screened included works that have been selected and awarded at multiple international film festivals and focus on issues including minority rights and war, children’s rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights as well as interfaith films. Ma Su of EngageMedia stated that the diverse selection of films is meant to cater to a wide range of issues and audiences. All screenings were followed by discussions with the filmmakers.
The first film was Thet Oo Maung’s ‘Sound of Silence’ awarded at the Gerona Film Festival in Spain. The film focuses on an old retired soldiers experiences in the civil war and includes very dramatic and exciting footage. Maung shared his experiences in making the film with the audience and discussed sympathy for the victims of war.
Lei Lei Aye, the director of ‘My Mother is Single’ led a riveting discussion on her ideas of women’s roles in Myanmar society. ‘My Mother is Single’ was produced by Turning Tables Myanmar and received recognition at Wathnn Film Festival.
The third film shown was ‘A Letter from Civil War’ directed by Lin Thet Naung, it depicts a child’s life in an IDP camp in Kachin. This film was also selected for the Wathnn Film Festival in 2013.
Ko Aung Win Htut from Phandeeyar said that the screening "is an affirmation of the hard work put in by the younger generation in the film industry here. It's a film series Myanmar should be proud of".
Tell us who you are as a filmmaker and how you began your career.
My name is Dananjaya, but people usually call me Andrew. I’ve been working with kotakhitam Forum from when it was founded in 2008. I’ve never studied filmmaking, but I greatly enjoy watching films and I do that often.
Back then, I was thinking about making my own films on particular topics. And since I love history, I decided to start an organisation – a non-profit one – that focuses on film and history. At that time, I believe kotakhitam Forum was the first organization working on both film and history.
Can you tell us about some of your more notable films? Which would be your favourite?
Till today, we’ve made several long-format documentaries, most of which address the situation in Indonesia in 1965. Our first ever documentary was about Lekra (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat or People’s Culture Organization), titled, ‘Yang Bertanah Air, Tak Bertanah’. The film features eyewitness accounts of former members of Lekra on their revolutionary movement as a continuation of the unfinished revolution of 1945.
Our second big project, ‘r.i.’tells the stories of Indonesian political exiles who, for a certain period of time, could not return to the country due to the coup in 1965. This group included students, journalists and cultural delegations who were sent abroad by Soekarno in the 1960s.
Our third film of note is ‘Api Kartini’, which is about survivors revisiting a prison camp in Plantungan, Central Java, where they were isolated because they were assumed to be members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) during the New Order era. They shared stories on suffering in silence, memories of loss and severe trauma in trying to recall that violent period.
I would say that ‘r.i.’ is my favorite film. As our first production, we learned a lot from it, not only with regards to working with such topics but also technically, since none of us came from film school. Back then, it was very rare that people discussed political exiles, who we traveled to Europe to meet directly. It’s also the film that we’ve done the most outreach for.
What is the background to its story?
The film focuses on political exiles from Indonesia who could not return because of the 1965 Tragedy and lived in Europe. The aspiration to build a new Indonesia under the leadership of Soekarno brought about delegations of students, artists and journalists were sent to Europe to absorb new knowledge and experiences.
The 30th September movement, had a big impact on those who were abroad. The New Order regime screened and withdrew the passports of anyone who was considered leftist or communist. Some of these citizens chose not to come back to Indonesia due to the possible consequences, such as arrest and abduction. To survive, they started a restaurant which became a symbol of solidarity among exiles. Restaurant Indonesia in Paris became a part of the emancipation movement by Indonesians who were concerned about human rights issues. It was boycotted by Suharto's regime, but the inconsiderate labeling of it as a “red” restaurant never deterred its spirit.
What were the opportunities you gained from producing the film?
Since we’re dealing with rather sensitive issues, myself as producer and director of all the films produced by kotakhitam Forum will be the first in line to face any challenges. But sometimes those challenges greatly help me to know more deeply about what is going in my country.
I’ve met lots of amazing people that faced the tragedy, survivors, historians, and younger generations that have totally no knowledge about the story of that time. With kotakhitam Forum, I take the opportunity to be a medium and bridge different communities to understand and learn from each other.
For example, when we meet with youth, most of what they know is history as told by the New Order. It then becomes our job to take them to meet survivors and victims so that they will get a chance to listen to perspectives they’ve never heard before. That also happen with our movies, we use them to be a bridge to discuss about propaganda and version barrier between generations.
Are there any challenges for you working in Indonesia, specifically on the 1965 issue?
Many critical groups besides kotakhitam Forum also produce documentaries and books in order to provide an alternative historical discourse. Since our target audience is history teachers and high school students, these new resources challenge institutions to become more open to interpretations.
However, the public discourse has not always had an impact. Many teachers still use the same books that were used during the New Order regime, because they seem to be haunted by the trauma of the period and the formal curriculum bureaucracy. By screening documentary films with alternative perspectives to history teachers, we hope to encourage more open mindedness and boldness among them.
What first attracted you to work with documentary film?
It started in 2008, when my friends and I founded the organization and had a discussion on history and politics. One of us said he had just read alternative history books, where the content was totally different compared to what was taught at school. It surprised us a lot, as we’ve never heard those comparisons made before.
Since then, we started researching on it. Some people helped us meet survivors and we thought that we should record it, because there were many others aside from ourselves who did not know about such issues. We decided that film would be the best medium to use, as it has audio and visual aspects which can more fully document the people we’d interview. We also thought that films would be more flexible to distribute via screenings instead of books.
How can online distribution help your work, and what are your thoughts on online and offline distribution?
Online distribution helps us a lot with outreach. Especially when working on certain issues in Indonesia, we have to be very careful about our security. Based on that reality, we more online than offline distribution, but online distribution also aids us in reaching broader audiences.
However, we still believe in the unique ability of offline distribution, which creates an important space for face-to-face discussion. That’s why we continue our engagement with high schools by screening films there.
For me, both online and offline distribution are not easy to do. We still encounter a lot of difficulties in promoting our films, especially with the complicated regulations when dealing with formal organizations.
What are you working on now and what's your next project?
We’re now in the middle of our next project, which is also related to the 1965 Tragedy. There’s a new choir group consisting of family members of survivors, and they just launched their first album. We approached younger generations to interpret their songs through the audio-visual medium.
Another ongoing project is a filmmaking workshop with high school students on family history. We’re also attending to some international students who are doing internships with us.
Do you believe that films can change society?
I do believe 100% that films can change society.
What we’ve been doing for the past few years is to look at to what extent high school history teachers are willing to consider using films with alternative historical narratives in their work. We believe that this activity assists in the development of the history curriculum into a more humane and democratic one. It opens new perspectives on the discourse of the 1965 tragedy to teachers and schools, and encourages students to be more critical in comprehending Indonesian history.
All of kotakhitam Forum's films are available for free download here.
30th September, 1965, was a day that symbolized the political transition between the first Indonesian president, Soekarno, and the new order regime of Soeharto. Soekarno himself was a nationalist who promoted ideas of the people standing against colonialism and imperialism, so his biggest supporters naturally came from Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI), or Communist Party of Indonesia.
On the 1st of October, at a time when all other media was banned, the Indonesian army’s official newspaper published stories accusing leaders and members of the PKI of being responsible for the killing of the several generals in Jakarta.
In about three weeks following the events in Jakarta, mass killings began to take place all across Java. Scores of people were summoned and executed by mobs with the support of military personnel. The victims included members of the PKI, progressive and liberal organizations, civilians, artists and academics who were critical of the government, and even people who did not have any relations with the communists at all. It turned into a witch hunt where fingers could be pointed at anyone the mobs desired.
It was estimated that between one to two million were killed, and others who were accused and survived were being isolated and imprisoned on islands. Some who were studying or sent abroad by Soekarno were not able to return to Indonesia. These are just a few examples on a long list of violations that have had a deep impact in education and the younger generation.
Before the 1998 reformation, most of society viewed the discourse on the ‘1965 Tragedy’, as it came to be called, based on history as narrated by the New Order regime. History teachers in Indonesia had to use the prescribed perspective in books that were controlled by the regime, and students were made to watch Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI (The Betrayal of the 30th of September Movement/Indonesian Communist Party). The film, which was shown in schools every year following the massacre, was a dramatized account of the 1965 Tragedy, constructed to propagate the idea that communism is fundamentally evil.
However, the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998 motivated many to dig deeper for the truth. This motivation was further fueled by several new findings on the brutalities that occurred, and a tribunal which found the Indonesian government guilty of massacre. Multiple groups continue to use film, music, literature, and other initiatives to provide an alternative discourse to history.
The narratives featured in these documentary films were multi-dimensional, including testimonies of the victims or their family members who were either directly involved or who witnessed the trauma and its social impact. Some of the productions, such as The Act of Killing, were even able to highlight the perspectives of the perpetrators, and are being used for advocacy.
Another such film is Jembatan Bacem (Bacem Bridge). The film is based on a bridge in Solo, Central Java, which was the location of a massacre of people who were assumed to be or were communists. After 40 years, a ritual ceremony was held to mark it as a memorial site.
In 2013, EngageMedia organized a video project called Video Slam 2013, which brought together 14 filmmakers from across Indonesia to remix and subvert the official government propaganda film, Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI. Some of the resulting videos took a more serious approach, while others chose to be comical or satirical.
We hoped that the activity would serve as an entry point, especially for those involved in the project, to break the taboo and end the silence around discussing that period in Indonesia's history.
In music, a new choir group called Dialita (an abbrevation of “Di Atas Lima Puluh Tahun” or “Above 50 Years Old”), whose members are woman survivors and families of the 1965 victims, just released an album which is available for free download.
Songs by Dialita were mostly composed by individuals during their imprisonment from the late 1960's to 1970's. For the album, the group collaborated with young musicians, wanting to share their life journeys with inter-generational perspectives. They perform not only to help reconstruct history, but also for personal fulfillment, and to cope with trauma after being silent for almost 50 years.
A popular electronic act named Filastine also teamed up with young Indonesian musicians to produce an adaptation of the controversial song ‘Genjer Genjer’.Though the original song was about a poor woman picking genjer (a river plant that was mostly consumed by the poor at that time) to sell at the market, it was used as a rallying theme by the PKI. When Suharto took power in 1965, the songwriter was killed and the song banned.
Papermoon Puppet Theatre, a prolific theatre group from Yogyakarta, has also been organizing performances and workshops to raise awareness and encourage dialogue. Their work, Mwathirika, which uses puppetry and multimedia to portray first-hand accounts of those detained, has traveled to various locations around the world.
In 2015, another initiative that was launched was Museum Bergerak, which was an interactive public space for younger Indonesians to examine and appreciate archives, stories and memoirs that came directly from victims and survivors. Clothes, shoes, photos, sketches, bicycles and much more were installed into the museum/exhibition in a corner of Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. To their owners, the exhibited objects were treasures, helping them recall their experiences from 50 years ago.
By looking back in time through art and other media that help to clarify and renew historiography, there is hope that generations of young Indonesians will be able to join the dialogue to bring the nation towards reconciliation and justice.
The Freedom Film Festival is considered to be the most established human rights and environmental film event in the region, bringing together critical films and filmmakers for the past 14 years. Its organizers, Pusat KOMAS, who are a member of the global Video4Change network, spearheaded the idea of holding a localized forum after attending the 2nd convening of the network in Mexico last year.
The three-day event began with a public screening of films from Sabah, to West Papua and to Myanmar, addressing issues such as environmental crises, women’s rights, religious freedom, and the social realities of the LGBT community. The screenings closed with the film ‘Kenya: A Guidebook to Impunity’, produced by fellow Video4Change network members InformAction.
The film served as a starting point for the discussion conducted the following day on the role of video in elections monitoring in Southeast Asia. All the participants agreed that video-based monitoring in their home countries was done more sporadically, and found inspiration from the Kenyan film to plan ahead for a more concerted documentation effort.
Sessions continued with a presentation on ‘Video as Evidence’ and related tools by Prakkash from WITNESS. Seelan from EngageMedia then shared a presentation titled ‘Beyond the Festivals: Video for Social Change and Impact’, which included key aspects of guides such as BRITDOC’s Impact Field Guide, Horticulture Tools by the Active Voice Lab, and the Video4Change Impact Cookbook. It was encouraging to note that our presentation was used by one of the attendees in an Asia Indigenous People's Pact workshop in Thailand the very next weekend.
The final day featured an open-to-public dialogue titled, ‘Dealing with the Cut’, where a panel of filmmakers shared their experiences with film censorship.
Knowledge exchanged over the course of the forum informed the closing meeting to follow up on some common areas where various participating filmmakers and organizations could work together, and understand how this currently organic network can be developed further.
The first event, which I was also invited to help organize, was the Barcamp in Pyay City, located in the Bago Region. Like many other areas in Myanmar, Pyay faces issues of land grabbing, and so I chose some related content for the camp. On the opening day, July 16, I promoted a dialogue on 'Human Rights Through Documentary'.
As the target audience during my talk were teenagers and high school students, I focused on child and land rights issues by screening the films, ‘Pangarap sa Buhay' from the Philippines and ‘Masters of our Land’ from West Papua.
The discussion that followed was very active because the students were knowledgeable on human rights, and spoke up bravely on the subject. We concluded the session by asking positive questions such as, “How can we cure our society by sharing knowledge?”.
Next, I headed to the Tech for Transparency event at Latpanhla village, Sintguu Township, Mandalay Division. The two-day workshop which started on July 18 was organized by Phanteeyar, USAID and Colors Rainbow.
Colors Rainbow invited both youth and seniors from across Mandalay and Latpanhla to participate in the camp, where I spoke to both groups about the impact of the civil rights movement in their lives and taking action to help their communities with digital storytelling tools.
Using the mobile editing tools I shared, each participant was supported in creating a story, written and recorded on his or her mobile phone. Each story was made accessible online by posting them on their community Facebook page.
With the skills gained during the workshop, the participants from various organizations are now able to share their stories as part of their efforts to seek justice, whether it be in LGBT or civil liberty issues. The camp also provided other valuable tools to civil society and the private sector to enhance the technical assistance they are receiving through ongoing USAID programs.
EngageMedia looks forward to the next event where it can contribute to positive social change in Myanmar through video and technology.
In his opening address at the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) 2016 in Taiwan, Markus Kummer, its Executive Coordinator, mentioned that for many years, the IGF sees itself as a forum for strategy but applies no pressure on itself to make decisions. There have been no tangible outcomes, only some recommendations to be pushed through some mechanisms such as the UN process. In short, the IGF is a forum for diplomacy.
With that in mind, some of the forum participants attended a discussion on the Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF), a concept initially discussed and implemented in the European Union and Argentina, and intended to allow individuals to "determine the development of their life in an autonomous way, without being perpetually or periodically stigmatized as a consequence of a specific action performed in the past."
The dialogue on RTBF included the perspectives of different stakeholders considering the impacts on access to information, the shifting of decision-making to technology companies, and the right of an individual to privacy and security. It aimed to go through the legal, technical, and societal implications of RTBF decisions for internet design, access, and use.
The session was also part of a global collaboration between academics, NGO researchers, and information professionals who came together to take a closer look at RTBF rulings around the world. They addressed challenges arising from the terminology and implementation of the rulings and how they are shaping a "New Internet Era".
I'd like to highlight some of the points brought up that I found of interest, especially from Prof. Kyung Sin Park from Korea, who asked about data ownership. Today, most of us are frankly unfamiliar with who or which entities actually own our online data. This includes all our status updates, images and audio files that have been uploaded to dozens of apps, services, and social media.
When talking about RTBF, Prof. Kyung added that we also should consider relevance. Public interest makes it relevant to fulfill the RTBF, because people are very diverse and the right can protect a person's past life and prevent discrimination based on it. The question was also raised on how we differentiate private identity with RBTF.
In another comment, Dr. Monika Zalnieriute from the University of Melbourne emphasized on the private sector and the government privatization of human rights. There is also the angle from which historians and librarians see issues with RTBF, in the sense that history must be protected so that it can be used by researchers.
Smita Vanniyar, Research and Communications Officer from the Indian organisation Point of View, complained against the real name policy that has been advocated by Facebook. From civil society's perspective, especially people with different sexual identities and orientations, some of whom have dual identities need protection from societal threats. People who are queer, for example, are in need of both the freedom of expression and the freedom of sexual expression.
At the end of discussion, almost all of the participants came to an agreement that the right to be anonymous is similar and equal to other human rights, and there should not be any rights are more or less limited than another.
Video streams and thematic summary reports from IGF 2016 are available here.
The aftershock of Snowden’s revelations seems to have died down. Other than a few more journalists who are now using encrypted emails, nothing much has changed. Security experts are still juggling terms such as SecureDrop, TOR, PGP and many more, but just how many media professionals are paying attention to them?
Journalists around the globe are increasingly being harassed, censored, monitored or even worse, have been stopped from doing their work. According to Reporters Without Borders, 35 journalists have been killed and 167 others imprisoned in 2016 alone.
However, according to our work in the field, we note that the threats faced by journalists are mostly related to local actors and not some form of high-level surveillance. Local thugs, mayors, politicians and landlords have shown themselves to be the most common enemies.
At the same time, the tools used to conduct these acts of surveillance are becoming cheaper and easier to obtain and use. So while journalists should discuss and investigate larger issues, they should pay more attention to their local challenges.
There's also this new phenomena, where journalists are finding it very difficult to protect their sources, the people who are providing them data and information. Journalists need to be more careful about their digital footprints and the kinds of information they are releasing in stories. They also need to do more to protect their research, data, electronic devices, work spaces, and on/offline identities.
With regards to digital security in the office, a few key questions need to be answered:
- What is the protocol for using encrypted emails?
- Who will people refer to if there are security issues?
- How will they contact this expert or reliable individual?
- Do they live in a country where encryption is outlawed?
Journalists are also currently using more chat applications in their smart phones than laptops. Here, it’s important that they choose between Whatsapp and Signal, which are already equipped with end-to-end encryption, making them far more secure than free-service email, with Whatsapp looking to soon integrate fingerprint verification. Beyond these tools, are they even using secure passwords? Knowledge in creating better passwords is actually just as, if not more important, than using complex applications.
Most importantly, addressing all the above issues requires a change in behavior towards security, which is usually the hardest to achieve. The journalists of the world will hopefully not have to see another prominent victim like Snowden for that to happen.
On 21 April, 6 short films by Papuan filmmakers and activists opened Jagongan Media Rakyat 2016 (The People’s Media Festival) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
The films from EngageMedia's Papuan Voices collection included Save The Karon, Papuan School, Pearl In The Noken, Mama Mariode and Master of Our Land. The film Perempuan dan Miras (Women and Alcohol) by the Papua Pride community was also screened.
The motive of the screening was to inform to people outside Papua about what exactly was happening inside it. Richard Suwae, one of the founders of Papua Pride, commented that film is the best medium to transfer knowledge and information, and that it’s much easier to distribute. They hope that through film, they can increase solidarity among Papuans.
Both organizations aim to foster a positive perception about the Papuan people, as we've observed that in recent times, the media tends to report news that portrays them in a more negative light.
In the same week, Papuan Voices was also screened during a monthly discussion as part of Festival Film Pelajar Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta Student Film Festival). The organizer of the event wanted to show films made by Papuans, as most films about the province are made by people from outside it.