On 3 May 2016, APHR Member Isra Sunthornvut (Former MP, Thailand) was a panelist at a UNESCO-organized event in Jakarta, Indonesia, marking World Press Freedom Day. The ASEAN-wide event focused on the topic of freedom of information, and Isra spoke passionately about the importance of these values, learned during his experience as a journalist and in Parliament.
Isra discussed the current situation in his country, Thailand, where press freedom and freedom of expression have been severely limited since a military coup in May 2014. He highlighted growing concerns amongst the Thai population about Thailand’s draft constitution and and the upcoming referendum on it.
During the panel, Isra also discussed his hopes for his upcoming tenure as Secretary General of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA): “I will make people more aware of what AIPA is, and what AIPA has to offer. AIPA will not only be a forum for parliamentarians to gather, but also for all the people of ASEAN to discuss matters in the region. I will do my best to promote freedom of expression in Thailand and in the region, and to maximize this effort with only limited budget, the AIPA Secretariat will always be in close cooperation with all NGOs.”
As part of the event, Isra also participated in a closed roundtable session for regional policymakers to discuss best practices and lessons learned related to access to information.
Other distinguished speakers in the event including: Ms. Rosanita Widiastuti, Director-General Information and Public Communication from the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information, Ms. Johanna Skoog, Swedish Ambassador to Indonesia, and Mr. Shahbaz Khan, Director of UNESCO’s Jakarta Office. The event was attended by more than 100 people from 10 countries.