The 8th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights held in September 2008 in Siem Reap, Cambodia centred on the theme “Freedom of Expression.” Countries in Asia and Europe are converging around the principle of freedom of expression, recognising not only its intrinsic value for realising everyone’s full human potential, but also its indispensable contribution to developing tolerant, prosperous, and harmonious societies. All ASEM partners have embraced education as essential for progress in the information societies and knowledge economies of the 21st century, and quality education requires the fullest freedom of expression. In addition, freedom of expression, freedom of information, and media freedom are necessary for consolidating democracy, enhancing citizen participation, and achieving sustainable development.
The two speakers in the 27th and 28th Asia-Europe Lecture Tours were rapporteurs at the 8th Human Rights Seminar, and were thereby well-placed to discuss many of the issues raised in that meeting. In addition, the speakers also met with local officials, civil society groups, and journalists in each of the cities to discuss specific aspects of freedom of expression, such as freedom of information, press freedom, and responsibility.
The speakers discussed the norms relating to freedom of expression and its permissible limitations, its relations to other rights, and the challenges to freedom of expression particularly relating to the media including the internet. They addressed issues such as:
– Promoting media responsibility through independent systems of media accountability that do not rely on state action.
– The role of the state in providing access to media.
– The role of non-state actors, such as media corporations and other powerful interest groups, in restricting or expanding the flow of information and ideas.
Prof. Kevin Boyle, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, UK
Prof. Cherian George, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore