Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
OHCHR’s report on digital tech and civic space in South-East Asia
30 May 2023
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani
Today, our Office released a report on the human rights impacts of new technologies on civic space in South-East Asia. While the expansion of Internet access and proliferation of digital technologies has created unprecedented opportunities, it has also brought about online harms such as the accelerated spread of hate speech and provided State and non-State actors with tools for targeting critics and competitors, and to undermine democratic governance. Digital tools have also been used to surveil and harass dissenting voices.
The report draws attention to the many recent laws and regulations governing online space in South-East Asia, several of which appear to reinforce and expand pre-existing restrictions of freedoms of expression, association and privacy.
Certain laws and regulations are having significant and often adverse implications for journalists, human rights defenders, bloggers, environmental and social activists and civil society organizations, the report finds. These range from the disruption of their work, financial duress, personal threats and attacks, arrest and detention, judicial harassment and criminalization, enforced disappearances and forced closure of civil society organizations.
The report provides a series of recommendations to both States and businesses, calling also on the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and National Human Rights Institutions in the region to play a critical role in ensuring human rights are protected in the digital domain.