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Social Media and Freedom of Expression in Asia

Course Description
This course reviews the nexus between social media and freedom of expression in Asia. In particular
it examines how social media in recent years has been used by individuals, civil society groups and
political parties to advance political expression and participation. At the same time, the ruling
incumbents in the region have been introducing regulations to reign in the political impact of social
media. This has given rise to international NGOs releasing rankings on the state of internet freedom in
Asia and around the world. Presently, the use of social media in Southeast Asia centres on Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube following an initial period where websites, blogs and forums were popular when
the internet was first publicly available. Increasingly, many of the regions ruling incumbents and their
supporters are using their access to resources to go on the social media offensive against those who
oppose them.. This course traces these developments and reflects on technologys impact on freedom
of expression and the democratisation process in Asia.
Course objectives
To review the role of social media and freedom of expression in Asia
To examine the responses to social medias political role in the region
To gauge the impact of social media on freedom of expression in the region

Seminar Topics Outline





Democracy and Freedom of Expression

1.5 hours

in Southeast Asia
Rise of Social Media in Southeast Asia

1.5 hours

Online Citizen Journalism

1.5 hours

Online Alternative Media

1.5 hours

Online Regulation

1.5 hours

Social Media and Elections

1.5 hours

Online Negative Campaigning

1.5 hours

Media Freedom Indexes

1.5 hours

Case Study:

1.5 hours


Leste Majeste in Thailand

Case Study:

1.5 hours


Islam and New Media in Southeast Asia

Project Presentations

1.5 hours


Project Presentations

1.5 hours


Project Presentations

1.5 hours


Review of Course

1.5 hours

Seminar Style Format

The course will be organised along an intensive seminar style format where students take the lead in group
discussions and presentations. Each week designated students/group will lead discussions on seminar topic and
readings. Students should come to class having prepared fully to engage in the discussion of the themes and
issues relating to each weeks seminar. Such student inputs and discussions will be followed from an initial
overview presented by the instructor. Student led discussion should focus around key readings, study materials
and fundamental questions. Students will be allocated (or hopefully self-select) to lead the discussion on the
topic of week.
Project Presentations
For the project assignments, students will be asked to collaborate with other class members and select a topic of
their choice with the advice of the instructor at the first seminar (see course topics list). Collaborative projects
may spread the workload amongst participants but please note that a single mark will be allocated to a
collaborative project. This mark will be assigned to each of the students involved. During the formal
presentations, students groups will each be expected to speak for around 30-45 minutes. The presentations
should aim to cover the major issues and questions and students should offer their own thoughts and ideas on the
material and the topics under review. After their presentations, students are expected to submit a group project
report of approximately 2000 words.
Students are encouraged to go beyond the resources provided below. The readings in this list are available either
via url links to be printed out or as pdf files. Should any of the readings be not available either online or at the
library it can be replaced by alternative texts on the same topic.
1. Democracy and Freedom of Expression in Southeast Asia
Case, William. 2004. Democracy in Southeast Asia: what does it look like and what does it matter? In Mark
Beeson (ed.), Contemporary Southeast Asia: Regional Dynamics, National Differences . London: Palgrave, 7596.
Kurlantzick, Joshua, Southeast Asias Regression From Democracy and Its Implications, Council on Foreign
Relations, USA, May 2014.
2. Rise of Social Media in Southeast Asia
Atkins, Williams, The Politics of New Media in Southeast Asia, Curzon Press (2002), Routledge (2013).
Nielsen, (2012).The Asian media landscape is turning digital, pp.1-10.
3. Online Citizen Journalism
George, Cherian, The internets political impact and the penetration/participation paradox in Malaysia and
Singapore, Media, Culture and Society, Vol27(6), 2005, pp. 903-920.
Pichapen Prateepavanich, Citizen Journalism: on Thailands policial crisis (2006-2010), Journal of Digital
Research and Publishing, pp. 40-49.
4. Online Alternative Media

Salman, Ali (et al), The Impact of New Media on Traditional Mainstream Mass Media, The Innovation Journal:
The Public Sector Innovation Journal, Vol. 16(3), 2011.
Wang Lay Kim, Media and Democracy in Malaysia, The Public, Vol 8. (2001), 2, pp.67-88.
5. Online Regulation
Gomez, James, Dumbing down democracy: trends in internet regulation, surveillance and control in Asia.
(2004) Pacific Journalism Review. 10 (2). (School of Communication Studies, Auckland University of
Technology, New Zealand). pp.130-150.
Ramcharan, Robin, ASEANs Problematic Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights: The New
Medias Role in Enhancing the Protection of Human Rights, Journal of International Studies, Vol. 9, 2013.
6. Social Media and Elections
Meng Kim Seng, Shaping Political Change: The Role of the Social Media in Cambodias 2013 Elections, Asia
Pacific Media Educator, SAGE, Volume 24:1 (August 2014).
Gomez, James, Social Media Impact on Malaysias 13th General Election, Asia Pacific Media Educator,
SAGE, Volume 24:1 (August 2014).
7. Online Negative Campaigning
Max Groemping, Echo Chambers: Partisan Facebook Groups during the 2014 Thai election, Asia Pacific
Media Educator, SAGE, Volume 24:1 (August 2014).
Schafferer, Christian (ed.) Election Campaigning in East and Southeast Asia: Globalization of Political
Marketing, 2006, Ashagate Publishing: England and USA.
8. Media Freedom Indexes
Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Slipping and Sliding: The State of Press Freedom in Southeast Asia, Bangkok,
Thailand, 2008.
Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2013.

9. Case Studies: Leste Majeste in Thailand

Borwornsak Uwanno, Lse-majest: A Distinctive Character of Thai Democracy amidst the Global
Democratic Movement, Royal Institute, King Prajadhipoks Institute, Thailand (undated).
10. Case Study: Islam and New Media in Southeast Asia
Brachman, Jarret, A Survey of Southeast Asian Global Jihadist Websites in Helfstein, Scott (ed.),
Radical Islam Ideology in Southeast Asia, (2010), The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
Steele, Janet, Journalism and The Call to Allah: Teaching Journalism in Indonesias Islamic Universities and
State Institutes International Journal of Communication 6 (2012), pp. 29442961.
11-14 Selected Reading from:

Asia Cyberactivism: Freedom of Expression and Media Censorship (co-ed). (2004) Bangkok: Friedrich
Naumann Foundation.
Media Coverage of Elections in Asia, Asia Pacific Media Educator, SAGE, Volume 24:1 (August 2014)

Assessment Summary
Assessment Task


Due Date

1. Seminar Attendance and Participation



2. Project Presentation
(approx 20 ppt slides)
(Essay - approx 2500 words)


As scheduled

3. Take Home Exam

(Essay - approx. 2,000 words)


Final Week

1. Attendance and Participation

Value: 20%
Criteria for Marking: Attendance and active participation in seminars
2. Project Presentations
Value: 30%
Criteria for Marking:
be well-organized and presented effectively, good organisation and team work 5%
the visual and creative aspects of the presentation 5%
class engagement in the discussion following the presentation 5%
good understanding of the chosen topic 5%,
clear evidence of having researched the topic in addition from prescribed sources 5%,
well structure and written 5%
3. Exam (Take Home)
Value: 50%
Criteria for Marking:
Essay must meet stated research aim and material utilized needs to be up to date (10%)
Analysis: demonstrate a sound understanding of the relevant issues and back up analysis with supporting
logic and/or evidence (20%)
Argument: make an original argument and arrive at a clearly stated conclusion (20%)