The Alliance for Journalists‘ Freedom launched a new interactive dataset which tracks press freedom incidents throughout the asia pacific region. The Alliance, held an event by zoom on Wednesday which featured a demonstration of the product and a discussion between Former Al -Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who is one of the non-profit’s founders and UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication at University of Queensland, and Natasha Kassam Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program at the Lowy Institute. Greste, who spent more than 400 days imprisoned in Egypt, said the idea for the index came in part from the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Rankings.
Greste placed the Alliances efforts in a regional context, explaining that they worked closely with organisations like the Committee To Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, but that these (US and Europe based) organisations work could be complemented by an Asia Pacific focussed entity like AJF. He also noted that Australia was finding itself compared (albeit favourably) with authoritarian regimes rather than with other mature democracies and that Australian press freedom “implied and inferred” not constitutionally or legally protected – somethine the AJF hopes to ammend by promoting the passage of a Media Freedom Act.
The index itself, which collates data on each country, but does not calculate rankings (though presumably some could be derived from their data) is based on recorded “incidents” ranging from arrests to online harrasment and doxing, which can be browsed by type and country or by “series” of related incidents- for example the Myanmar Crisis or Covid 19. However these series, or specific filtered search results are not sharable. And as you can see in the research portal above, there are still some pretty big glitches in at least one of the display modes, and gaps in the data in terms of smaller Pacific Island nations, like New Zealand – though the expectation is that these will be addressed and the data will be added for these countries in the near future.