Throughout Asia and the world, people have taken to social media and online platforms to express themselves in ways that were not possible through traditional offline mediums. States have realized the empowering impact of free expression online and have, in some cases, tried to impose greater regulation. Offline regulations, typically in penal legislation, are being applied to online spaces in addition to internet- specific legislation. Legitimate expression on the internet is increasingly being redefined as cybercrime. In some cases, states like Thailand have more severe punishments and penalties for expression online than for expression offline. In other cases, states like Cambodia are in the process of drafting new legislation that seeks to regulate many aspects of the internet including expression online.

As part of this project, the Association for Progressive Communication (APC), the Digital Asia Hub, and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) conducted a study, mapping the legal ecosystem as it relates to freedom of expression and the criminalization of speech in six Asian states: India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. The methodology for this project draws on the methodology developed for the Arab Digital Rights Dataset.

This report, Unshackling expression, was launched as a Global Information Society Watch Special Edition at the 2017 Internet Governance Forum.

The report  includes an overview of the methodology adapted for the purposes of the country research, as well as an identification of the international standards on online freedom of expression and the regional trends to be found across the six states that are part of the study. This is followed by the country reports, which expound on the state of online freedom of expression in their respective states.

Project partners are currently planning to expand this research to other states in Asia and to make available a resource that civil society, internet policy experts and lawyers can use to understand the legal framework domestically and to reference other jurisdictions.

To read the report, click below.