Democracy & Participation

Articles on Democracy & Participation

SOUTHEAST ASIA: Time for a Pushback in Media Spaces

Digital, online and social-media avenues undoubtedly offer an alternative or complementary channel for news, because of the inherent difficulty in censoring these spaces. Their wide reach and levels of engagement have saved lives during disasters or emergencies.

By Johanna Son

SOUTHEAST ASIA: Open Season for Professional Media?

Journalists sued for espionage in Cambodia, and for using drones or supposedly violating the official secrets act in Myanmar. News outlets faced with financial penalties steep enough to cause them to go under, as it did in Cambodia. Media organizations in the Philippines repeatedly described as ‘fake news’ outlets by government officials chafing at critical reporting.

By Johanna Son

Rethinking Media Reform in Southeast Asia: Promoting a Participatory Approach for a More Democratic Media

Internet users in Southeast Asia are confronted with a heavily regulated environment in which there are more restrictions being placed on freedom of expression. Despite technological advances, societies undergoing political transitions, such as Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand, have yet to enjoy the full democratic potentials of a free and independent media. Instead of top-down reforms for the media, these countries need policies that prioritize the public’s interests. Only with the meaning public’s meaningful participation of civil society can these reforms become sustainable while  supporting democratization.

By Gayathry Venkiteswaran

ASEAN’s Double Vision of Migration

After the deluge of headlines during ASEAN’s 50th birthday in 2017 and before that, the start of the ASEAN Community in 2016, this year may signal a return to what many see as ASEAN’s return to its uneventful – or boring – ways.

By Johanna Son

Brokering Peace in Southeast Asia’s Conflict Areas: Debating the Merits of an ASEAN Peacekeeping Force

Diversity is an essential feature of our region. While religious and ethnic animosity poses an obstacle to creating a “cohesive and caring society”, this is not to suggest that diversity is the cause of conflict and insecurity per se. As illustrated in various multiethnic states around the globe, many governments have succeeded in integrating diverse populations. Rather, it is discriminatory practices and the lack of respect for differences in Southeast Asia that have alienated minorities and created chasms within communities.

By Chanintira Na Thalang

Publications Democracy & Participation

For Democracy


In the last six decades all over the world autocracies and military dictatorships were overthrown and initial steps toward democracy were taken. But over the years it has be-come clear that the transition from autocracy to democratic rule is difficult and by no means guaranteed. The authoritarian developing state – as an alternative to democracy – has gained massive momentum. Even in its ostensible strongholds democracy is un-der pressure today in many parts of the world. Institutions of democracy assistance like the Heinrich Böll Foundation and pioneers of political freedom have been struggling against a significant headwind for some time now. However, supporting democratic en-gagement worldwide is a core concern of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Human rights, democracy, and ecology – this triad stands at the center of the Foundation’s interna-tional work. The present publication “For Democracy” outlines and analyzes the state of democracy worldwide as well as the possibilities of democracy assistance. At the same time, the publication provides concrete insights into the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s political work for democracy. In addition, four essays approach the subject democracy assistance in a basic and passionate manner.

Computercrime? Impact of the Computer-related Crime Act 2007 and State Policies on the Right to Freedom of Expression


The new publication by Sawatree Suksri, Siriphon Kusonsinwut and Orapin Yingyongpathana from iLaw aims to explore implications of the enforcement of the Computer Crime Act (CCA) since it came into force in July 2007 until December 2011 vis-a-vis sate policies as well as public reaction towards he law and its enforcement in comparison to the situation abroad. It includes key findings and recommendations.

All publications

What We Do

Democracy and civic freedoms have come under increasing pressure in Southeast Asia over the past years. Under the pretense of ensuring stability, national security and public order, regional governments continue to severely curtail fundamental political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens.  Unregulated investments, facilitated by rent-seeking governments, in particular in the poorer ASEAN-countries, increasingly disenfranchise and deprive local communities of their livelihoods at a large scale.  

In dealing with these trends, the Democracy & Participation Program strongly commits to the promotion of human rights, democratic participation and gender equality. Among others, we support civil society organizations that engage in the protection of freedom of expression, media freedom and digital rights, a particularly important issue in times of increased digital censorship and surveillance by state authorities across the region. As the ongoing ASEAN integration will be essentially defined by the movement of people across borders, the program will also engage in activities related to the rights of refugees and migrants. Overall, the aim of the Democracy & Participation Program is to assist partners and civil society organizations in creating public space for dialogue and open debates as well as developing adequate strategies for their respective advocacy campaigns. This encompasses (I)NGOs, alternative media, think tanks, scholars, youth activists, artists, LGBT and women’s organizations.

The Future of Civic Space: What are the Realities of “Shrinking Space”


Photo: Niklas Hughes. Creative Commons License LogoThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

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