Freedom of Expression Under Attack in Asia- Pacific

Freedom of Expression Under Attack in Asia- Pacific

Asia-pacific region saw widespread democratic erosion, including in India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka with many of them suffering from rising ethno-nationalism and militarisation of politics, said a new finding of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA.

The International IDEA in its report  “The Global State of Democracy Report 2021 – Building Resilience in a Pandemic Era” said that the influence of China, coupled with its own deepening autocratisation, put the legitimacy of the democratic model at risk in the region.

Moreover, the region also suffered a wave of growing authoritarianism as various crises affected Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Myanmar

In the forward. Minister for Foreign Affairs, National Unity Government (NUG) Zin Mar Aung said: “Political leaders journalists judges, religious and sexual minorities and activists are increasingly harassed and persecuted Elections are being delayed and electoral frameworks manipulated. Geopolitical tensions are on the rise And yet. I remain optimistic about democracy’s resilience,”

CHALLENGES

Covid 19 pandemic prompted most countries in the Asia and the Pacific region to restrict freedom of movement. All 32 countries imposed some restrictions, ranging from full lockdowns to limits on the size of public gatherings, and in some cases, these were combined with longer term anti-democratic tendencies

Freedom of expression came under attack across the region, in both democracies (such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka) and non-democracies (such as Cambodia and China) –with citizens arrested excessive force used by the police, and criminal charges being imposed simply for publicly voicing criticism of official handling of the pandemic crisis.

A noticeable continuation of a decline in democracy was recorded in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka (as well as the democracy-ending military coup in Myanmar and stifling legal changes in Hong Kong).

A trend towards intervention in politics by security forces was noted in both authoritarian regimes and democracies

Rising ethnonationalism, exacerbated by the stress of the pandemic, is undermining pluralism, increasing polarization and heightening conflict. The trend was most immediately noticeable in India Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but there is a risk that economic damage from the pandemic and growing inequality may spread ethno-polarization further across the region

The pandemic has afforded the authoritarian regime in China the opportunity to influence regional and global geopolitics. At the same time, the situation in China itself deteriorated, particularly in Civil Liberties and Checks on Government

OPPORTUNITIES

High-performing and economically strong democracies (Australia, New Zealand), and some midrange democracies (Japan, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Timor-Leste) managed their responses to the pandemic while respecting democratic principles

Across the region, the varied assaults on democratic freedoms intensified popular demands for political reform, including in Hong Kong, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand, triggering vocal pro-democratic responses rather than muting them

Throughout the region, the pandemic gave rise to electoral management advancements and innovations.

Democracies, such as Australia, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan, provided crucial lessons to the rest of the world about how elections can be credibly managed under the restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

 

 

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