The Public Media Alliance, with support from UNESCO Bangkok and the rapid response mechanism of the International Programme for the Development of Communications (IPDC), is proud to announce the launch of our new project that seeks to identify and respond to challenges related to media freedom, media viability and journalist safety in Southeast Asia in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the global economy, resulting in a significant loss of revenue for the media. Despite record audience growth and demand, the economic stress of the crisis is pushing many independent media organisations to the brink of extinction, at a time when they are needed the most. Job losses, pay cuts and even closures have been rife.

These financial pressures are happening against the backdrop of threats to media freedom and the safety of journalists, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The International Press Institute’s (IPI) COVID-19 Press Freedom Tracker has recorded more than 600 COVID-19 related press freedom violations worldwide since February 2020. Many governments around the world have been using the pandemic as an excuse to curtail media freedom, and clampdown on independent journalism and critical reporting.  As a result, media organisations are struggling to operate in an environment that is becoming increasingly restrictive due to limited access to information, excessive ‘fake news’ regulations, clampdowns on freedom of expression and a rise in attacks on journalists.


PMA will work with media stakeholders and its members in Southeast Asia to conduct a regional consultation on the status of media viability, media freedom and safety of journalists during the COVID-19 crisis. The consultation will produce a report that will assess the current situation, which will be discussed in both online and in-country meetings.

The final objective is to develop a regional roadmap that address the issues raised in the report and provide recommendations based on our research on how to better equip journalists, media organisations and the wider media environment in the region with useful and practical ways of responding to the challenges during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. In doing so, we hope that the project will facilitate journalists to work more safely and to legitimately promote freedom of expression and media freedom in the region.

The project will focus on eleven Southeast Asian countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.


As part of the project, we will send a survey to media stakeholders, including journalists, media practitioners, policymakers, press councils, academics, and media NGO representatives in the Southeast Asian region to share their valuable insights and experiences of the important and timely themes of this project. The survey will also be made available via our website.

The online meetings and in-country workshops will take place later in 2021. It is likely that some – if not all – of the workshops may take place virtually due to COVID-19 safety precautions. We will publish further updates on our website and across our social media platforms throughout the duration of the project.

We are currently seeking potential partners to work with and identify experts and facilitators to carry out research, compile our situation report, and deliver other phases of the project. For more information and if you would like to get involved, please email the PMA Projects & Membership Manager, Jasmine Chandler, at or Research Journalist, Chloe Howcroft, at

We are thankful to the UNESCO Bangkok and the UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) for supporting this project. It is one of two new PMA projects that IPDC has agreed to support for PMA. Find out more about our project in Haiti and our previous IPDC-supported projects.


Header image: Bangkok, Thailand 9/19/2020: Journalists and photographers are the careers of people. Credit: STANG HONGTHONG/Shutterstock