Press freedom in Southeast Asia continues to face many challenges. According to Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Press Freedom Index, East Timor and Papua New Guinea are the only countries in the top 100 countries for press freedom this year.
Many factors have been attributed to the difficult media situation in Southeast Asia, including self-censorship by journalists, government repression, and economic instability.
However, there is also good news. Determined local reporters teamed up with international media and non-profit newsrooms that subsidize investigative reporting, especially on environmental issues. The funding allowed Malaysian journalists to discover gaps in forest data. An Indonesian journalist has raised the issue of fraud behind nickel mining. Journalists in Myanmar have reported devastating environmental damage, a side effect of the country’s 2021 military coup.
Apart from these notable efforts, journalists in the region have published a range of significant investigative articles this year, ranging from digital attacks on the media, to cybercriminal slavery, to Indonesia’s recent football tragedy.
Our list of the best investigative journalism from 2022 shows that despite pressure from so many directions, reporters continue to uncover the truth. shows that Southeast Asian journalism still plays a key role in holding authorities accountable and giving victims of abuses of power a voice.
nickel mine tentacleTempo (Indonesia)
Many entrepreneurs are vying for nickel mining licenses as part of Indonesia’s ambition to become a world leader in electric vehicle battery production. An investigation by Tempo Weekly News Magazine reported suspicious transactions behind this business. In two provinces with the largest nickel reserves in Indonesia, mining permits were obtained using forged documents — both the auction process and deforestation permits were missing — in almost half of Jakarta, according to Tempo. It covered a vast land area equivalent to the area of . capital of indonesia. Tempo also reported the involvement of various parties behind the licensed companies, from government officials and politicians to former activists.
Follow the trail of backlink spam attacksRappler (Philippines)
In recent years, the Philippines has served as an early warning beacon of digital attacks and disinformation against media and individual journalists. In this two-part series of his, Rappler introduces backlink spam, the latest online harassment tactic targeting journalism.
Most website owners welcome backlinks because they can improve the reputation of their site on search engines.However, for news sites, Google’s algorithms can identify spam and manipulative backlinks. So this method can negatively affect your SEO. To trace the origin of the attacks against multiple Philippine news outlets, Rappler analyzed his IP address and discovered that the attacks were said to have been orchestrated from Sweden. Rappler, working with Swedish digital forensics agency Qurium, estimates that remediating backlink attacks against his three media outlets in the Philippines could cost him nearly US$130,000.
Rough Roads: Exploiting Filipino Truck Drivers in EuropeRappler (Philippines)
To keep truck drivers’ wages to a minimum, European shipping companies routinely base themselves in Eastern Europe. And thanks to a shortage of truck drivers on the continent, European trucking companies are now recruiting from as far afield as the Philippines. Rappler interviewed several Filipino truck drivers working for European companies and uncovered widespread wage theft and other forms of exploitation. Rappler also delves into why workers’ lawsuits against companies have been dismissed by European courts for human trafficking.
How Indonesian Villagers Lost in the Palm Oil BoomMongabay, The Gecko Project, BBC (Indonesia)
Palm oil is big business in Indonesia, used in countless consumer products around the world. Companies are legally required to share plantation land with surrounding communities as a measure against poverty. To hold these companies accountable, Mongabay, BBC News, and The Gecko Project analyzed palm oil company reports, court records, and government data to help residents, officials, academics, activists, and I interviewed an employee of the company. Their research found that companies were unable to provide hundreds of thousands of hectares of land to communities, and government officials were on the sidelines. . In addition, the researchers reported that many large Western consumer goods companies sourced palm oil from companies suspected of violating land tenure.
Unrecorded forest loss in Peninsular MalaysiaAl Jazeera and Makaranga (Malaysia)
The officially reported forest area of Peninsular Malaysia differs from the forest area size measured by independent satellite imagery analysis. Based on satellite imagery, 500,000 hectares of forest were lost, not recorded in official forest cover between 2000 and 2019. This forest data gap was researched by Malaysian environmental news portals Macaranga and Al Jazeera, with support from The Pulitzer. The Center’s Rainforest Research Network. A seven-part study reveals the locations and updates of deforestation in Peninsular Malaysia, and who is responsible for it.
Forced to Scam: Cambodian Cyber SlaveryAl Jazeera (Cambodia)
Chinese-owned cyber fraud syndicates operate across Cambodia. These companies commit various types of cyber fraud, making tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in profits each year.
Forced labor is prevalent in the industry, according to Al Jazeera. Reporters spoke to more than a dozen of his victims who managed to escape, revealing many were foreigners tricked into working in Cambodia. To free themselves, victims are forced to pay off a large amount of “debt” by working as cyber crooks. Additionally, victims are often physically abused while on the job.
These cyber-fraud syndicates operate in various physical locations in Cambodia, including casinos, hotels, and residential complexes with high security. Al Jazeera reported that most of these venues are controlled by Chinese investors and conglomerates with ties to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
soccer disasterNarasi (Indonesia)
Saturday 1 October 2022 marked a dark day in the history of Indonesian football. A classic duel between the two clubs left 135 spectators dead and hundreds injured. Instead of relying on government investigations into the tragedy, Narasi TV conducted its own investigation. Narasi’s team uses open-source techniques, such as scrutinizing user-generated videos circulating on his social media and crowdsourcing tips and other information, to provide minute-by-minute insight into the incident. built a reproduction. The reported narrative describes details leading up to the moment police fired tear gas into the crowd, the type and number of projectiles fired, and where the projectiles fell. Narasi’s reporter also explained the horror of the incident from the victim’s point of view.
Impact of Myanmar coup on natural resourcesYale Environment 360 and Frontier (Myanmar)
Since the late 1990s, the Myanmar government has designated some areas of Kachin State as protected areas. Myanmar journal Frontier, in collaboration with online magazine Yale Environment 360, has shown how the regulatory vacuum following the country’s military coup in 2021 has exacerbated environmental conditions in the region. One direct impact the reporting team found is diving into the illegal wildlife trade through Facebook. The team also found that the coup caused rampant illegal gold mining. This is due to the growing need for the military to fund the ongoing crackdown on political opposition. As a result, Kachin communities are suffering from highly toxic mercury used in mining, which seeps into rivers and agricultural areas, and businessmen close to the military regime profit from illegal activities.
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Coricle Alim Indonesian Editor of GIJN and Editor-in-Chief of Jaring.id, a non-profit media based in Jakarta, Indonesia who is also a member of GIJN. For the past five years, Kholikul has been providing training and mentoring to reporters in the fields of data his journalism and digital security.