BANGKOK, November 8, 1998 -- Delegates meeting in Bangkok
announced the formation of an alliance to support and promote
press freedom in the region on Sunday. Twenty-five representatives
from five independent journalists' organizations in three countries
-- the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia -- launched a campaign
on behalf of a free press in Southeast Asia through the establishment
of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA).
The alliance will set up a secretariat in Bangkok next year.
The secretariat will monitor attacks on journalists and threats
to the press in Southeast Asia. The alliance will also encourage
governments in Southeast Asia to reform repressive media laws
and relax restrictions on the press.
A steering committee was formed to direct the new alliance. Steering
committee members were drawn from the Reporter's Association of
Thailand (RAT); the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
(PCIJ); the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
of the Philippines; the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent
Journalists (AJI); and the Institute for Studies in the Free Flow
of Information (ISAI), which is also based in Indonesia.
The alliance is meant to be inclusive of independent journalistic
organizations in the region and was formed in response to the
growth of press freedom in the three countries initially involved.
Delegates affirmed their commitment to support efforts by journalists
in neighboring countries to establish a free press.
"This is a landmark development in the history of the Southeast
Asian press," said Kavi Chongkittavorn, a member of the six-member
steering committee and the executive editor of the Nation newspaper
in Bangkok. "We journalists have to be able to defend ourselves
and help our Asian colleagues."
The alliance grew out of a two-day seminar on press freedom in
Southeast Asia, hosted by the Reporter's Association of Thailand
in conjunction with the World Press Freedom Committee and the
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
"We support your efforts and applaud this endeavor," said James
Ottaway, the chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee.
Both CPJ and WPFC pledged to assist the alliance in its development."This
is vital work," said A. Lin Neumann, the Asia program coordinator
Delegates attending the meeting said it was the first time that
regional press freedom organizations have banded together to promote
Southeast Asian concerns.