[People] Asia’s basic freedoms fall short of international standards. By Renato Mabunga

Asia’s basic freedoms fall short of international standards
Too many restrictions and not enough promotion of rights
By Renato Mabunga

There is a general lacuna in legal and institutional protection for freedom of assembly and expression in many Asian countries.

Most Asian countries emphasize restrictions rather than the promotion of freedoms.

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Forum Asia, a regional human rights organization based Bangkok, found that Maldives, for instance, defines “assembly” as a gathering of two or more people expressing opinion or dissent.

Maldives’ Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act sets up a “red and green” demarcation to mark areas where people are allowed to speak of their concerns.

In this island paradise, protest rallies can only be held in the middle of the country’s surrounding ocean.

The law also imposes heavy restrictions on journalists covering protests.

Absurdly, the law purports to be about promoting rights.

Ahmed Rilwan, a Maldivian journalist, went missing on August 8 after reporting on a Maldives Broadcasting Commission threat-analysis report into threats to media freedoms in the country.

The report found that 84 percent of journalists surveyed had experienced harassment for doing their work.

Another five percent received threats on a daily basis, while approximately 43 percent said they did not report these threats to the authorities, presumably because such incidents are rarely investigated.

In Malaysia, the country’s Peaceful Assembly Act requires organizers “10 days before the date of an assembly to notify the officer in charge of a police district in which the assembly is to be held”.

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