Southeast Asian Press Alliance

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The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) "is the first organization established specifically to campaign for genuine press freedom in Southeast Asia." SEAPA was "founded in November 1998 in Bangkok with the assistance of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the World Press Freedom Committee and the Freedom Forum. [1] "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)." [2]

Kavi Chongkittavorn, Chairman and founder

Since 1999, SEAPA has also received annual funding from the National Endowment for Democracy for its work in Malaysia. e.g.


"A handful of journalists attending the November 1997 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum were discussing the then-spreading economic crisis over breakfast in a small Vancouver hotel, wondering out loud about where it would lead and why it was happening.

"At the table were Filipinos, Indonesians, a Malaysian and a Thai editor. They all agreed that corruption, lack of accountability and opaque business dealings were at the heart of the spreading financial gloom. Asian newspapers, they said, had often either failed to warn their readers or were prevented from doing so by government regulation and self-censorship.

"The Indonesians - among them Ahmad Taufik, a journalist who had spent more than three years in jail for publishing articles critical of then-President Suharto -- despaired of every getting to the bottom of the "New Order" regime that had shuttered some news outlets and cowed the industry into fawning submission. The Malaysian reporter could see few challenges to the self-censorship of the Mahathir era. The Filipinos and the Thai enjoyed a free press but felt isolated from their colleagues in the region, their media often susceptible to pay-offs and political pressures.

""We need a way to protect ourselves from all of this," said Kavi Chongkittavorn, the Executive Editor of the Bangkok Nation newspaper, a note of exasperation in his voice. "Nobody else will do it. This crisis can help us do better. We need an Asian organization to advance press freedom."

"Those at the table that morning could see the value of what Kavi was proposing. For too long, free press organizations have sought to extend protections to the press in Asia and elsewhere in the developing world from a base in the west. How much better it would be if journalists in the region took the lead in fighting those battles, with western reporters as allies.

"Soon, the organization discussed in Vancouver became a reality. Founded in November 1998 in Bangkok with the assistance of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the World Press Freedom Committee and the Freedom Forum, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) aims to unite independent journalists' organization in the region into a force for advocacy and mutual protection. With members in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia and headquarters in Bangkok and an office in Jakarta, SEAPA has laid out an ambitious program to build a regional network to share information on attacks against journalists, promote press freedom and responsibility and hold governments responsible for their actions against the press." [3]

SEAPA Member