International Workshop on “Fake News and State Control in the Post-Truth Era in Southeast Asia” on July 22 | Center for Southeast Asian Studies Kyoto University


International Workshop on “Fake News and State Control in the Post-Truth Era in Southeast Asia” on July 22

International Workshop on “Fake News and State Control in the Post-Truth Era in Southeast Asia” at CSEAS, Kyoto University

Date: Monday, July 22nd, 2019
Time: 11:00 -18:00
Venue: Kyoto University Inamori Memorial Hall, 3rd floor Mid-size Meeting Room

Chair : Tsukasa Iga (CSEAS Kyoto University)

11:00 Welcome and introductory words by Yoko Hayami (Director, CSEAS Kyoto University)

Cherian George (Hong Kong Baptist University)
Singapore’s new online falsehoods law: banking on tradition at a time of transition

Steven Gan (Journalist, Malaysiakini)
How the battle against Anti-Fake News law was won in Malaysia

Break 12:30-14:00

Chair: Yoshihiro Nakanishi (CSEAS Kyoto University)

Ben Dunant (Frontier Myanmar)
From partners to adversaries: the downward spiral of state-media relations in Myanmar?

Prangtip Daorueng (Freelance Journalist)
Fake News and Political Polarization in Thailand

Break 15:20-15:40

Chair: Masaaki Okamoto (CSEAS Kyoto University)

Ismail Fahmi (Drone Emprit & PT. Media Kernels Indonesia)
The Phenomenon of Fake News and The Implementation of UU ITE and Civil Society Initiatives to combat Fake News in Indonesia

Yoichiro Tateiwa (Executive Editor/ Seeds for News Japan, Executive Director/ Japan Center for Money and Politics, Vice President/ Fact Check Initiative Japan)
Combating Fake News in Japan –What Fact Checkers Can Do in This Age of Information Chaos


Cherian George (Hong Kong Baptist University)

Singapore’s new online falsehoods law: banking on tradition at a time of transition

In May 2019, Singapore’s Parliament passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), probably the most elaborate legislation of its kind anywhere in the world. The law empowers ministers to trigger take-down or correction orders against online material containing false statements of fact, as well as criminal prosecutions against offenders. The law is remarkable for the degree of discretion it places in the hands of ministers, including the power to suppress and punish misinformation that ministers deem would hurt confidence in their work.

Although at one level a response to the specific problem of so-called “fake news”, the move also showcases key features of Singapore’s governance model. POFMA follows the People’s Action Party (PAP) regime’s tradition of enacting laws that give cabinet maximum room for manoeuvre, enabling swift and decisive action unhindered by liberal democratic checks and balances. The new law is the strongest indication yet that the incumbents expect the incoming generation of PAP leaders to continue with the party’s authoritarian model.

The debate preceding the passage of the POFMA bill, too, was symptomatic of PAP hegemony. The government marshalled the mainstream media to amplify its voice while muting criticisms of the bill. It also took a leaf from contemporary authoritarian populists’ methods—using majoritarian logic, nationalist rhetoric, online trolls and social media influencers to manage public opinion and marginalise critics. Nevertheless, POFMA was striking for the unprecedented degree of opposition it generated. Despite the broad consensus that disinformation campaigns need to combatted, several groups expressed strong objections that the government could use the new law to shield itself from scrutiny. These criticisms hint at a growing desire for political accountability, in lieu of the blank-cheque social contract that the PAP has traditionally banked on.

Steven Gan (Journalist, Malaysiakini)

How the battle against Anti-Fake News law was won in Malaysia

Malaysia passed the Anti-Fake News law on April 2, 2018 – about a month before the 14th general election which saw an unprecedented change of government for the first time since the country achieved independence from Britain 61 years ago.

The hastily-written law was rushed through parliament. The intention was clear – to sow fear among Malaysians and terrorise them into unquestioned submission ahead of a crucial election. It was bolstered with hefty penalties – up to RM500,000 fine and/or up to 10 years’ jail. The jail sentence was subsequently reduced to six years following a public outcry.

Fake news under the law is vaguely defined as “any news, information, data and reports which is or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals, or audio recordings or in any form of capable of suggesting words or ideas.” Three weeks after the law was passed, Malaysiakini mounted a legal challenge against the law. Former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, who represented Malaysiakini, argued that the law was unconstitutional. However, the challenge was thrown out of court as the judge said it was premature as Malaysiakini had not been charged with any criminal offence under the law.

Nevertheless, by then a new government took power and one of its first acts was to repeal the law. This not to say Malaysians are not concerned about fake news. They are. But there are better ways of stopping it. In the second part of my presentation, I shall talk about some of the ways fake news can be combated.

Ismail Fahmi (Drone Emprit & PT. Media Kernels Indonesia)

The Phenomenon of Fake News and The Implementation of UU ITE and Civil Society Initiatives to combat Fake News in Indonesia

My presentation in this workshop will address these questions: how fake news developed in Indonesia, how the Indonesian government and civil society combat the fake news, and whether limiting internet access will reduce the fake news. For that purpose, I will explain: the short history of fake news and social media polarization since 2014 in Indonesia political context; data on law enforcements using the Law concerning Electronic Information and Transaction (UU ITE, 2008 and its revision 2016) and the initiatives of Indonesian civil society on combating fake news; how the social media platform companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google responded the requests from Indonesian government to limit the dissemination of fake news; and the evaluation on the effectiveness of the last social media access limitation by Indonesian government during and after the 21st of May 2019 riots. At the end of this presentation I will provide conclusions and lesson learned.

Prangtip Daorueng (Freelance Journalist)

Fake News and Political Polarization in Thailand

There are four important factors that make fake news an important sociopolitical issue in Thailand, especially after the latest general elections in March 2019. These factors are: the decline of the media industry; the role of social media in replacing media organization as a platform of information and opinion; the political atmosphere that limits freedom of expression; and the prolonged and deeply rooted public political polarization that splits majority of the citizens into two political camps. These factors have created a context in which fake news systematically acts as a political tool for political and interest groups to propagate their political stands and to undermine their opponents. Like hate speech, fake news also responds to people’s political frustration by channeling and encouraging extreme emotional expression. It leads to the echo chamber effects in which supporters of political camps gather to receive specific information that coincides with their ideas, and then pass on to each other without checking, causing fake news to spread even more rapidly. My presentation will discuss the role of fake news in the current Thai political context. I will also explore the attempts of professional media organizations, civil society groups, and the government in finding solutions to the problem.

Ben Dunant (Frontier Myanmar)

From partners to adversaries: the downward spiral of state-media relations in Myanmar?

Ten years ago in Myanmar, most citizens desiring news about their country had to sift through teashop rumours, state propaganda, the contents of heavily censored newspapers and clandestine broadcasts transmitted from abroad. That which the military junta did not tightly control, it banned and suppressed. One of the most immediate and consequential changes that accompanied the reforms launched in 2011 was the explosion in lawfully published information about politics and society. This had two primary causes: the government’s decision to end pre-publication censorship for print media in 2012, and the dramatic expansion of public access to the Internet that resulted from the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in 2014. Today, the benefits of this information boom are uncertain. Relations between the government and private media have deteriorated, with recent attempts to discipline journalists through arrests and prosecutions, and social media – which accounts for most internet use — is used less to expose wrongdoing by the powerful than to sow hatred against vulnerable minorities.

I will focus on the former problem and explore why a popularly elected government led by veteran pro-democracy dissidents considers independent journalists as adversaries, whereas a preceding government led by members of the old military establishment pragmatically viewed them as partners in broadcasting their reformist credentials to the world. Moreover, I will examine how distrust has informed attempts by the current government to undermine and bypass private media through the use of a large, reinvigorated state-owned media apparatus as well as social media, and to scapegoat journalists for crises affecting the country, leveraging public opinion in a manner associated with so-called populist governments. I will argue that the current relationship is caught in a vicious cycle, and that the way out is to engage the government and persuade its members that investment in communications and building relations with the media is in the government’s own, as well as society’s, interests.

Cherian George is Professor of Media Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Communication. He researches media freedom, censorship and hate propaganda. His recent books include Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense and its Threat to Democracy (MIT Press, 2016), and Singapore, Incomplete: Reflections on a First World Nation’s Arrested Political Development (Woodsville News, 2017). He is also the co-author, with Gayathry Venkiteswaran, of Media and Power in Southeast Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2019). He received his PhD in communication from Stanford University in 2003. Before moving to academia, he was a journalist with The Straits Times, Singapore. (

Steven Gan is co-founder of Malaysiakini (Malaysia Now). Since it went live in 1999, Malaysiakini has become one of the most influential news websites in the country. Malaysiakini received the Free Media Pioneer 2001 award from Vienna based International Press Institute, and Gan is recipient of New York based Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award 2000. Malaysiakini was raided by the police in 2003 and 19 of its computers confiscated. Nevertheless, the harassment from the government failed to stop the subscription-based website from continuing to provide its readers with ‘news and views that matter’. Gan was arrested and charged in 2016 over a video on the 1MDB scandal posted by Malaysiakini subsidiary, KiniTV. The charge was eventually dropped after a new government took power in 2018.

Gan is co-editor of the 2004 book, ‘Asian Cyberactivism: Freedom of Expression and Media Censorship’. In 2007, Gan was selected as a member of the World Economic Forum’s International Media Council.

Malaysiakini won the bronze prize (for top media brand) at Malaysia’s Putra Brand Awards twice – in 2010 and 2014 – and the silver in 2015. In 2015, Malaysiakini won the editorial excellence in investigative reporting award from Hong Kong-based Society of Publishers in Asia (Sopa) for its four-part investigative report titled ‘The rise of the Johor royal family’s business empire’. Malaysiakini also won the Sopa award for Excellent in Breaking News this year.

Ismail Fahmi, Ph.D is an information scientist and the founder of PT Media Kernels Indonesia with experiences in developing a big data system called Media Kernels a.k.a Drone Emprit supported by a set of natural language processing techniques. The purpose of the system is to analyze online media and social media contents. He also developed Indonesia OneSearch, a knowledge portal for accessing all database and digital repositories from universities and public libraries in Indonesia. His bachelor is in Electrical Engineering from the Institute of Technology Bandung, and his master and doctoral is in Information Science from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His main interests are in natural language processing, information extraction, automatic term extraction, relationship extraction, social network analysis, ontology development and population, digital library, plagiarism detection, and big data.

Prangtip Daoreung is a Thai freelance journalist/writer and member of the Washington-based Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). She covers stories in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia for national and international publications such as ICIJ Online, Inter Press Service, former regional weekly news magazine Far Eastern Economic Review, former regional daily newspaper Asia Times, and a number of Thai-language print and online publications. In 2016, she was a part of 400 international journalists who covered “The Panama Papers” project under the Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which later won the Investigation of the Year prize by the Global Editors Network at the Data Journalism Awards in Vienna, Austria and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. In 2000, Prangtip was the first Thailand country director for Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA). She was awarded an Asian Public Intellectuals Fellowship under the Nippon Foundation, Japan in 2001 and spent almost a year in Indonesia to research on conflict resolution in Aceh. Her area of interest includes politics, media development, political economy, corporate transparency, and conflict resolution.

Ben Dunant has been working as a journalist and researcher in Myanmar since 2014. He is Chief-of-Staff at Frontier and has also contributed to Voice of America, Nikkei Asian Review, The Diplomat and New Mandala.chief-of-staff at Frontier Myanmar, a news magazine based in Yangon.

Yoichiro Tateiwa is a journalist, formerly NHK. Currently he is Executive Editor at Seeds for News Japan, Executive Director of Japan Center for Money and Politics, and Vice President at Fact Check Initiative Japan.

Contact: Tsukasa Iga (igatsukasa[at]