Reporting from the Frontline:
Possibilities and Limits of Southeast Asian Media Responses to Covid-19


December 19 (Saturday), 2020

Reporting from the Frontline: Possibilities and Limits of Southeast Asian Media Responses to Covid-19

13:00-13:20 Login starts

Moderator: Masaaki Okamoto (Kyoto University)

13:25-13:30 Introduction

Speaker: Mario Ivan Lopez (Kyoto University)

13:30-13:50 Thai Press’ Over-reliance on Government Information about COVID-19

Speaker: Pravit Rojanaphruk (Khaosod English)

Discussion: Edoardo Siani (University of Venice)

13:50-14:10 Reporting on Covid-19 amidst Political Upheaval in Malaysia

Speaker: Tashny Sukumaran (South China Morning Post)

Discussion: Ayame Suzuki (Doshisha University)

14:10-14:30 Is the COVID-19 Lockdown Undermining Journalism in Myanmar?

Speaker: Ye Ni (Irrawady)

Discussion: Yoshihiro Nakanishi (Kyoto University)

14:30-14:50 Regressive Indonesian Freedom? The Rise of Digital Harassment against Journalists and Civil Society under COVID-19

Speaker: Abdul Manan (Tempo)

Discussion: Koichi Kawamura (IDE-JETRO)

14:50-15:10 Covid 19 and the Decline of Democracy: The Philippines Experience

Speaker: Marites Vitug (Rappler)

Discussion: Koki Seki (Hiroshima University)

15:10-15:20 Coffee break
15:20-15:50 Discussion

Moderator: Tomohiro Machikita & Mario Ivan Lopez (Kyoto University)


Koichi Kawamura

Institute of Developing Economies

Bio: Koichi Kawamura is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE). He joined the IDE in 1996 and his current position is the Director of Southeast Asian Studies Group I, Area Studies Center. He was the Visiting Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Studies Center of the Gadja Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2002 to 2004. His research interest lies in the field of constitutional politics, political institutions, and elections in Indonesia. His publications include “Origins of the 1945 Indonesian Constitution,” in Kevin YL Tan and Ngọc Sơn Bùi, eds. Constitutional Foundings in Southeast Asia. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2019: 49-75; “Politics of Inequality in Indonesia: Does Democracy Matter?” in Keiichi Tsunekawa and Yasuyuki Todo, eds., Emerging States at Crossroads. Singapore: Springer, 2019: 231–253; “Voting Behavior in Indonesia from 1999 to 2014: Religious Cleavage or Economic Performance?” (with Takayuki Higashikata), IDE Discussion Paper No. 512, March 2015; and “President Restrained: Effects of Parliamentary Rule and Coalition Government on Indonesia’s Presidentialism,” in Yuko Kasuya ed., Presidents, Assemblies and Policy-making in Asia. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013: 156-193.


Tashny Sukumaran

The South China Morning Post

Reporting on Covid-19 amidst political upheaval

Abstract: 2020 in Malaysia has been tumultous – from a political coup to state elections to several state governments falling and, most recently, a push from the administration to declare a political emergency as warring political parties and factions insist they command parliamentary support. Reporting on the Covid-19 public health crisis during this period then becomes more complicated, with the electorate accusing their leaders of politicking when they should be focused on the pandemic. In my presentation I will examine key events such as the May Day immigration raids, key government and opposition press conferences, the Sabah state elections and of course the initial political coup that kickstarted the year of instability.

Bio: Tashny Sukumaran reports for the South China Morning Post from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her work covers a variety of issues ranging from national politics to women’s rights. She has ten years of journalism experience in Malaysia and holds a postgraduate degree in human rights law from SOAS, University of London. Tashny has a particular interest in labour and migration, legal empowerment, and civil society.


Ayame Suzuki

Doshisha University

Bio: Ayame SUZUKI majored political science in Keio University (2000), and obtained Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Tokyo (2008). She taught at the University of Malaya (2010-2011), Fukuoka Women’s University (2011-2014) before assuming the current position. Her substantive research on politics and law in Malaysia was published as Freedom and Order in “Democracies”: Reconsidering Malaysia’s Political Regime (Kyoto University Press, 2010, in Japanese), for which she was awarded the Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Award in 2011. Her latest publication includes a co-authored chapter with late Prof. Dr. Lee Poh Ping, “Malaysia’s Hedging Strategy, a Rising China, and the Changing Strategic Situation in East Asia,” in Dittmer and Ngeow eds. Southeast Asia and China: A Contest in Mutual Socialization (World Scientific, 2017).


Ye Ni

The Irrawady

Is the COVID-19 lockdown undermining journalism in Myanmar?

Abstract: The global outbreak of Covid19 has placed an unprecedented situation for the media in very testing times. Most of the news agencies have been working remotely since COVID-19 wave emerged from the end of March in 2020. Journalists and media workers have faced travel restrictions due to the government’s strict new stay-at-home orders. The situation in Myanmar is further challenged by the launch of new Counter-Terrorism Law in Myanmar and the use of fake-news to stop publication of any news on Covid19. For the newsroom, the challenges in times of Covid-19 are varied from the personal safety of the team members who are traveling out in the field, at the risk of getting infection, to the dependence more heavily on digital collaboration tools like Zoom. Dramatic changes include online editorial conferences, remote editing, and virtual brainstorming. Working from home may has made the journalists more efficient comparatively but the quality and creativity of the coverages have suffered to a lesser degree.

Bio: Yeni (a) Myo Min Oo is a senior editor at The Irrawaddy. I joined The Iraawaddy in 2004 and my current position is Editor-in chief for Burmese language edition since my organization moved back to Myanmar’s business capital Yangon. From 2007 to 2013, I was the news editor for both English and Burmese language editions at The Irrawaddy when the office was based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. From 2004 to 2007, I was a reporter at The Irrawaddy. In 2012, I received the degree of Master of Business Administration (International Business) from Payap University at Chiang Mai, Thailand. My project submitted for the degree was “Critical Success Factor of Social Enterprises: A Case Study of Five Social Enterprises in Chiang Mai, Thailand.” My current responsibilities are mainly writing editorials, opinion page editing, strategic planning, content development and client relation.


Yoshihiro Nakanishi

Center for Southeast Asian Studies Kyoto University

Bio: Nakanishi Yoshihiro is Associate Professor at Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. His research focuses on politics and international relations of Myanmar, Southeast Asia and Japan. Nakanishi previously worked with Institute of Developing Economies (IDE-JETRO) and was a visiting scholar with Southeast Asia Studies Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a division of Johns Hopkins University based in Washington D.C. He is the author of Strong Soldiers, Failed Revolution: The State and Military in Burma, 1962-1988 (National University of Singapore Press & Kyoto University Press, 2013)


Marites Vitug


Covid-19 and the Decline of Democracy: The Philippine Experience

Abstract: Democracy was already in peril in the Philippines even before the pandemic began in early 2020. But Covid-19 has appeared to accelerate the decline of democracy as the government took draconian steps to contain the virus. My presentation will tackle two main threads. The first thread will be President Rodrigo Duterte’s response to the pandemic from the lens of law enforcement—including appointing retired generals to run a national task force and ordering one of the longest lockdowns in the world—and what the country has to show for it. In the midst of it all, the government shut down a major television network for political reasons and passed an anti-terror law that threatens basic freedoms. The second thread will look at journalists’ reporting on Covid-19, the difficulties they faced, including adjusting to virtual coverage, coping with economic pressures, and threats of repression from the state.

Bio: MARITES DANGUILAN VITUG has been a journalist for almost four decades and is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished journalists. A bestselling author, Marites has written eight books on Philippine current affairs. She is the former editor of Newsbreak, a pioneering political magazine. Currently, she is editor at large of rappler. Her latest book, Rock Solid: How the Philippines won its maritime dispute against China, won the National Book Award for best book in journalism in 2019. She wrote books on the Supreme Court and the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao, among others. Marites’s works have been published in foreign periodicals including the Nikkei Asia Review, Nieman Reports, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune, and books and journals, including The Politics of Environment in Southeast Asia (Routledge: London and New York), The Journal of Environment and Development (University of California in San Diego) and “Open Justice Philippine Case Study: Transparency and Civic Participation in the Selection of Supreme Court Justices,” in Open Justice: An Innovation-Driven Agenda for Inclusive Societies, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Argentina, 2019. In August 2018, Marites was a visiting fellow at the Australia National University, a visiting research scholar at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo in 2016 and, in Kyoto University in 2014.


Koki Seki

Hiroshima University

Bio: Koki Seki is a professor of cultural anthropology and Southeast Asian studies in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hiroshima University. His research interests include social development, social policy, and welfare under neoliberal restructuring of the Global South, particularly in the Philippines. Some of the current research topics are; urban gentrification and suburbanization of Metro Manila, relocation of the Informal Settlements and social housing projects, and so on. His major publications include: edited volume of Ethnographies of Development and Globalization in the Philippines: Emergent socialities and the governing of pricarity (2020); Anthropology of the “Social”: Globalization, Development, and Connectedness in the Philippines (2017, in Japanese) ; “Capitalizing on Desire: Reconfiguring ‘the Social’ and the Government of Poverty in the Philippines”, Development and Change 46 (6): 1253-1276 (2015); “Identity Construction of Migrant Children and Representation of the Family: The 1.5-Generation Filipino Youth in California, USA” in I. Nagasaka and A. Fresnoza-Flot (eds.) Mobile Childhoods in Filipino Transnational Families: Migrant Children with Similar Roots in Different Routes (2015). Palgrave Macmillan, pp.151-178.


Pravit Rojanaphruk

Thai Press’ over reliance on Government Information about COVID-19

Abstract: TBA.

Bio: Pravit Rojanaphruk is a senior staff writer at Bangkok-based Khaosod English online news. Pravit was awarded the International Press Freedom Award for 2017 by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. He was educated at the University of the Philippines and Oxford University. Pravit was detained twice without charge by the Thai military junta after the May 2014 coup.


Edoardo Siani

Ca’ Foscari University

Bio: Edoardo Siani is assistant professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. He writes about power in Buddhist Thailand. Edoardo received a PhD in anthropology and sociology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and was postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor at Kyoto University’s CSEAS. A resident of Bangkok since 2002, he taught at Thammasat University, worked in language education, and served as interpreter for the Thai police. He has contributed to media outlets including BBC and The New York Times.

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Reporting from the Frontline:
Possibilities and Limits of Southeast Asian Media Responses to Covid-19

On 11 March, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV-2) had become a global pandemic. To date, over 31 million people have been infected with 970,000 confirmed dead (as of 23 Sept, 2020). Southeast Asia, close to the epicentre of the outbreak, has not been spared from infection nor the effects of the ongoing pandemic. As a result, it is now experiencing its worst economic, financial, and social crisis in decades. Nations have reacted to outbreaks across and between countries through the imposition of curfews, partial and full lockdowns and the closing of borders impeding human flows. Southeast Asia is no stranger to pandemics and has been attuned to the exigencies of coordinated and swift responses after its experience of the 2003 SARS outbreak. However, the current crisis has made clear the varying levels of preparedness and vulnerabilities of health-care systems and government responses to ever evolving dynamics at a local level.

In spite of these, social distancing, the closure of public spaces, and harsh punishments for violating isolation decrees have highlighted varied political responses. These reactions have had a devastating impact on a region that is characterized by variegated economies, large informal sectors, disproportionate inequality, continual political instability, and weak forms of governance. The resulting pandemic has laid bare the challenges the region faces and the capacity of states to manage the ongoing crisis either individually or through cooperation. It has also exacerbated existing issues that arise out of the region’s unique set of experiences; ongoing Islamification in some nations, novel politico-economic engagements with a rising China, the weakening of democratic processes, the acceleration of urbanization, and the rise of new technologies and digital classes.

Within the current fluid context of the pandemic, reporters have been on the frontline gathering and presenting insights on what the region is experiencing. They have also asked many difficult questions under trying conditions. What have been state’s response strategies to the pandemic? What types of discourses have been formulated and mobilized to justify control and governance over communities? What national and regional emergency measures, laws and provisions have been put into place and have they been proportional? What new technological regimes have come into play in the management and surveillance of populations and what will be the long-term impact in terms of changing their behaviour? In what ways have reporters and the media been able to freely cover and respond to the ongoing situation? And, what geopolitical relations will emerge with neighboring nations in South and East Asia post COVID-19?

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) in conjunction with the Japan Society for Southeast Asian Studies (JSSEAS/Tōnan Ajia Gakkai) will hold a special meeting with five prominent journalists from the region to engage in some of the above questions and hold a dialogue on the current situation in the region. An online meeting, open to all, will be held in English with speakers from the region and five commentators to stimulate debate on the direction of Southeast Asia during this time of uncertainty. 

The event will be live-streamed on 19 December 2020 from {time} (JST Time)





これらにもかかわらず、ソーシャル・ディスタンス、公共スペースの閉鎖、 隔離令に違反した場合の厳しい罰則は、様々な政治的反応を呼び起こしている。これらの反応は、多様な経済活動、大規模なインフォーマルセクター、富の不平等、長引く政情不安、弱い統治形態を特徴とする東南アジアに壊滅的な影響を及ぼした。その結果、パンデミックは、東南アジアが直面している課題と現在進行中の危機に対して、個別に、あるいは協力して管理するための各国の能力を明らかにした。  また、一部の国家で進行中のイスラム化、台頭する中国との新たな政治経済的な関わり、民主的プロセスの弱体化、都市化の加速、新しいデジタル技術とそれに精通した集団の台頭など、パンデミックはこの地域特有の状況から生じている既存の問題を悪化させている。


東南アジア地域研究研究所(CSEAS)は、東南アジア学会(JSSEAS )と連携して、東南アジア地域の著名なジャーナリスト5名を招き、上に挙げた問いの一端に触れつつ、東南アジアの現状についての対話を行うシンポジウムを開催する。また5人の討論者が参加して、東南アジア地域がこの不確実性にどのように対処するか、その方向性を議論する。使用言語は英語で、すべての人が視聴できるオンライン会議を開催する。

翻訳: 芹澤隆道および京都大学 東南アジア地域研究研究所

Organizing Institutions and Sponsors

This event is supported by the Japan Society for Southeast Asian Studies (JSSEAS), Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) and the International Program for Collaborative Research (IPCR).