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COVID-19 in Southeast Asia


PMA worked with media stakeholders and its members in Southeast Asia to conduct regional research with in-country experts into the status of media viability, media freedom and safety of journalists during the COVID-19 crisis to create a situation report.

A draft of the report was then opened for discussion and feedback via an online meeting for media stakeholders in the region. The feedback from the online meeting and research were subsequently discussed in four in-country meetings in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

The project sought to compile a regional roadmap that addressed 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. The roadmap was made available as a digital resource to media in Southeast Asia.

The project and its resulting research focused on nine Southeast Asian countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.


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.


This project ran from June 2021 to January 2022.

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Research Report: Impact of COVID-19 on media freedom, journalist safety and media viability in Southeast Asia


The Public Media Alliance’s new research report gives a timely insight into the key impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the media across nine countries in Southeast Asia. Its accompanying draft Media Recovery Plan responds to the key challenges.

The report illustrates the strain news organisations have been under in recent years. For example, they have been forced to accelerate their move to providing more extensive digital services due to various lockdown restrictions; financial pressures imposed by the pandemic have occurred against a backdrop of broader threats to media freedom and the safety of journalists; and several laws purporting to combat the spread of disinformation and misinformation were introduced across the region.

The draft Media Recovery Plan concentrates on the key areas to be addressed in order to create a sustainable media environment, one which enables the media and journalists to work independently and collaboratively during a time of crisis such as COVID-19.

Download the Research Report:
COVID-19 in Southeast Asia research report (PDF)

Recovery Plan: The Impact of COVID-19 on media freedom, journalist safety and media viability in Southeast Asia


This draft recovery plan has been produced as part of the research project “The Impact of COVID-19 on media freedom, journalist safety and media viability in Southeast Asia”, run by the Public Media Alliance (PMA) in association with the Asia Democracy Network (ADN), and with support from UNESCO Bangkok and UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communications (IPDC).

Guided by the research outputs from the project, the plan makes recommendations at a regional level on steps to improve media freedom, media viability, and journalist safety in nine Southeast Asian countries. The plan incorporates some of the key points raised as part of PMA’s research and feedback with media stakeholders in the region.

Recovery Plan SEA frontpage

Recommendations include:

  • Building strong partnerships between media organisations to produce high quality and cost-effective content
  • Establishing a regional (non-governmental) forum to cover welfare, safety, and the freedom of journalists
  • Strengthening coordination and communication between states (with respect to media)
  • Supporting improved digital media literacy
  • Analysing the impact of digitalisation, especially the impact of social media
Download the Draft Media Recovery Plan:

Project partners

This important and timely project was organised by the Public Media Alliance, in collaboration with our local partner, the Asia Democracy Network (ADN), and with support from the UNESCO Bangkok Office and the rapid response mechanism of the International Programme for the Development of Communications (IPDC). We extend our gratitude to our project facilitators, Laxman Datt Pant, Chairperson of Media Action Nepal, and Tess Bacalla, Project Lead and Editor in Chief of the Asia Democracy Chronicles. Special thanks are also extended to our research contributors.

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

Secondary image:The Thai PBS vaccination centre. Credit: Thai PBS