Monday, November 10, 2008

Perspectives on Freedom of Expression in Asia and Europe

Asia-Europe Lecture Tour
"Perspectives on Freedom of Expression in Asia and Europe "
Kuala Lumpur
11th November 2008

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) cordially invite you to a public lecture on "Perspectives on Freedom of Expression in Asia and Europe".

Speakers : Prof. Kevin Boyle Prof. Cherian George
Human Rights Centre
University of Essex, United Kingdom
Head, Journalism & Publishing
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information
Nanyang Technological University , Singapore

Date & Time :
11 November 2008(Tuesday)
7.30PM – 10.00PM

Venue : Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

ASEM, the Asia-Europe Meeting, is a forum that promotes various levels of cooperation among Asian and European countries. Under the ASEM framework, a series of informal seminars on Human Rights have been organized since 1997 to promote mutual understanding and co-operation between Europe and Asia in the area of political dialogue, particularly on human rights issues. The 9th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights (held in September 2008 in Siem Reap , Cambodia ) centred on the theme "Freedom of Expression" and discussions resulted in a number of key messages.

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. The key debates in the seminar, therefore, were not over the principle of freedom of expression, but the challenges of implementing this freedom in effective ways among ASEM partners.

The translation of lofty principle into meaningful practice requires much more work. Effective implementation, in turn, requires the clarification of a number of key issues:

* First, there is a common misconception that combating state censorship will produce less responsible media. On the contrary, the goal is to promote responsibility through independent systems of media accountability that do not rely on state action.

* Second, the role of the state is too often cast in negative terms, such that freedom of expression is equated with simply the absence of repression. In truth, the state has a vital positive role to play, in providing people with access to the media they need.

* Third, freedom of expression debates too often overlook the huge impact of non-state actors, such as media corporations and other powerful interest groups, in restricting or expanding the flow of information and ideas.

* Fourth, the argument for freedom of expression is too quickly framed in zero-sum terms, implying painful trade-offs with other aspects of human development, and denying the powerful contribution that communication plays in development.

In this public lecture, two distinguished speakers, Kevin Boyle and Cherian George, will discuss the norms relating to freedom of expression and its permissible limitations, its relations to other rights, as well as democracy and rule of law, with special focus on challenges to freedom of expression particularly with regard to the media including the Internet and emerging actors (such as bloggers and "netizens"). Recommendations from the 9th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights will also be discussed.

Admission is free. Please contact us at 03-77843525/03-77835724or email to confirm your attendance or for more information.

We look forward to seeing you at the forum!

Profile of Speakers
Kevin Boyleis professor of Law at the University of Essex UK and a barrister at law with extensive experience of litigation before the European Court of Human Rights. He was director of the University's Human Rights Centre until 2007. He was educated at Queens University Belfast, Cambridge University and Yale University .

In 2001 -2002 he worked for the United Nations in Geneva as Senior Adviser to Mary Robinson during her last year as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He has also been a consultant to the United Nations on human rights issues. Born in Northern Ireland he moved to the Republic of Ireland in 1978 as Professor of Law at the National University of Ireland Galway where he founded the Irish Centre for Human Rights.

He later moved to London and was the first Director of the NGO Article 19: the Global Campaign against Censorship. In 1990 he was appointed to Essex University where he helped build the University's world renowned Human Rights Centre. He is Chair of the International Council of the NGO, Minority Rights Group International.

Cherian Georgeis a media scholar and journalist from Singapore . His research and writing focus mainly on social movements. He is the head of the journalism programme at the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University .

Cherian is the author of Contentious Journalism and the Internet: Towards Democratic Discourse in Malaysia and Singapore (Singapore University Press & University of Washington Press, 2006). He holds a doctorate in communication from Stanford University , and degrees from the universities of Cambridge and Columbia . Before joining academia, he spent 10 years as a journalist at Singapore 's national daily, The Straits Times, where he wrote mainly on media and politics.

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