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Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Forum

January 12 and 13, 2023: Online forum

January 14, 2023: In-person solidarity events in Bangkok, Dhaka, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila

EngageMedia will kick off the year 2023 with the Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Forum, a three-day regional forum that will create online and physical spaces for changemakers to further discuss and collaborate on solutions to the region’s most pressing digital rights issues today.

The three-day regional forum on January 12 to 14, 2023, is the second group of events leading up to the Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in May 2023. The digital rights themes, partnerships, and collaborations from the regional forum will be integral in shaping the Festival itself.

The regional forum is organised by EngageMedia, in collaboration with a consortium of partners.

Join as a participant or host a session by applying using the form below.


Days 1 and 2: Online regional convening

On January 12 and 13, the online events will focus on digital rights issues and themes that are most present for changemakers across the Asia-Pacific. This convening is open to all changemakers working on digital rights issues in the region. We also welcome participants who want to know more about digital rights from advocates working on the ground.

The agenda for the two days will be co-created with our collaborators and participants, with space for breakout sessions to delve deeper into specific topics. We encourage participants to co-lead these sessions, and have provided space in the registration form for ideas and inputs.


Day 3: Parallel, in-person solidarity events

On January 14, EngageMedia will co-facilitate parallel, in-person solidarity events in five locations:

  1. Bangkok, Thailand
  2. Dhaka, Bangladesh
  3. Jakarta, Indonesia
  4. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  5. Manila, Philippines

The third day will be an opportunity for participants of the Digital Rights Country Forums in Bangkok, Jakarta, and Manila to reconnect and revisit previous discussions and actions specific to their countries’ contexts. It will also be a dedicated space for those in Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka to meet for the first time and delve deeper into the digital rights issues in their respective countries.

At the end of the day, participants from the parallel, in-person events will have a chance to meet virtually and share their contexts, learnings, and actions with the wider group.


Join the Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Forum

If you would like to join and/or lead a session during the Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Forum, please create an account and fill out the form on


Event Agenda

Day 1: Online Forum
Thursday, 12 January 2023
10:30-15:30 Bangkok time (UTC+7)

Time (UTC+7)Program Segment
10:30 – 11:30

Day 1 Opening Plenary

Topic: The Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Situation

11:30 − 12:30

Breakout Session 1:

Extremism and Hate Speech in the Asia-Pacific

Breakout Session 2:

Unpacking Gender Justice

Breakout Session 3:

Climate Justice and the Internet: The Asia-Pacific Context

12:30 − 1:30Break and Huddle Time*
1:30 − 2:30

Breakout Session 4:

Digital Authoritarianism and its Impact in the Global South

Breakout Session 5:

Understanding Data Justice

Breakout Session 6:

Online Disinformation in the Asia-Pacific

2:30 − 3:30Huddle Time* and Closing Reminders

The past decade has seen how digital technologies and ethnoreligious hate can become closely intertwined. Digital technologies provide alternative spaces and novel methods of dissemination of hateful ideas; at the same time, the paths that tech companies pursue are increasingly driven by the need to factor how to mitigate (or, sometimes, capitalise on) the influence of such narratives. In the Asia-Pacific, the challenge of addressing hate narratives in Indonesia has garnered recent international attention. This panel will provide a space for scholars and activists to understand this trend and properly respond to them.


  • Noor Huda Ismail, Founder, Institute for International Peace Building
  • Bishakha Datta, Executive Director, Point of View
  • Hew Wai Weng, Research Fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Despite advancements in achieving gender equality, women and LGBTQIA+ communities continue to face discrimination and denial of the full exercise of their rights. Their exclusion in physical spaces extends to the digital realm, where the digital divide disproportionately affects women, impacting their participation in the labour force and education opportunities. These groups are at greater risk of being subjected to gender-based violence, online harassment, and digital surveillance.


  • Rita Baramu, Programme Manager, Body and Data
  • Trishia Nashtaran, Founding President, OGNIE Foundation Bangladesh

The pursuit of ecological justice has been increasingly influenced by the pervasiveness of digitalised society. Internet pollution has been a major contributor to carbon footprint, while indigenous communities across the Asia-Pacific struggle with the demands to create Instagrammable tourist hotspots in their living space. Many communities are displaced by massive land grabbing to make way for the development of tech infrastructures. Additionally, while video activism has the potential to maximise impact, environmental activists still face huge challenges in countering disinformation and unfounded claims related to environmental issues. How can we collectively address these different issues together?


  • Samsul Maarif, Head of Center of Cultural and Cross-Religious Studies, University of Gadjah Mada
  • Imelda Abaño, Senior Coordinator for Philippines & Pacific, Internews Earth Journalism Network
  • Michael Cañares, Strategy Advisor, Step Up Consulting, Philippines

Digital authoritarianism has accelerated over the past years, as the COVID-19 pandemic drove governments to control information and their citizens’ activities using digital technologies. These measures, purportedly implemented as part of the health response, have normalised state surveillance and worsened censorship of critical voices.

  • Damar Juniarto, Executive Director, SAFEnet
  • Dr. Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, Assistant Professor, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University
  • Miraj Ahmed Chowdhury, Editor at Global Investigative Journalism Network; Founder, Digitally Right

The systematic collection and analysis of data has become entrenched in daily life, with massive amounts of data generated in everyday activities. But while this datafication of society benefits others, others – such as historically marginalised communities – are further excluded in the digital world. Data justice examines the power dynamics behind the collection, analysis, and use of data, particularly concerning fairness and equity in the way people are made visible and represented in the production and analysis of data.


  • Cypri Jehan Paju Dale, Researcher, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University
  • Jun-E Tan, Senior Research Associate, Khazanah Research Institute Malaysia
  • Smera Jayadeva, Research Assistant in Data Justice and Global Ethical Futures, Alan Turing Institute

Social media platforms have become the main news source for many people, but these same platforms are also rife with online disinformation and propaganda. Capitalising on weak digital education and the algorithms of Big Tech platforms, perpetrators of digital black ops have spread false information to manipulate public opinion. How can the digital rights community effectively counter disinformation without infringing on people’s rights to freedom of expression?


  • Fritz Edward Siregar, Lecturer in Jentera Law School, Indonesia
  • Santosh Sigdel, Chairperson and Founding Member, Digital Rights Nepal

Day 2: Online Forum Friday, 13 January 2023
10:30-15:30 Bangkok time (UTC+7)

Time (UTC+7)Program Segment

Day 2 Opening Plenary

Topic: Building Regional Solidarity and Collaboration on Digital Rights

11:30 – 12:30

Breakout Session 7:

Online Media Freedom and Censorship in Asia

Breakout Session 8:

Challenging Big Tech

Breakout Session 9:

Youth Engagement on Digital Rights

12:30 – 1:30Break and Huddle Time*
1:30 – 2:30

Breakout Session 10:

Digital Labour Situation in the Asia-Pacific

Breakout Session 11:

Introduction to Digital Safety

Breakout Session 12:

Open and Secure Technology Focus Group Discussion

2:30 – 3:30Huddle Time* and Closing Reminders

Media freedom backslid in the Asia-Pacific especially at the height of the pandemic, as governments imposed restrictions to free speech under the guise of curbing health-related disinformation. Majority of Southeast Asian countries languished in press freedom rankings, reflecting both the growing turn to authoritarianism and the disastrous impact of disinformation and propaganda in online spaces.


  • Md. Saimum Talukder, Associate Professor of Law, BRAC University
  • Ellen Tordesillas, Co-Founder, Vera Files

The Internet today is largely controlled by a hegemony of giant technology companies that control so much of people’s online lives, but largely escape regulation and accountability for the digital dangers that their platforms facilitate and propagate. However, there have been more initiatives for independent, free, and open source platforms to present people with more right-respecting alternatives to Big Tech platforms.


  • Sam de Silva, Engagement Advisor, OPTF
  • Malavika Rajkumar, Project Associate, IT for Change
  • Elonnai Hickok, Managing Director, Global Network Initiative

Through digital platforms, young people can access information, participate in discussions, and exercise their rights to free speech. But these same platforms can also risk their safety and privacy, among other digital dangers. How can the youth be more involved in ensuring digital spaces protect and advance their rights?


  • Sarah Torres, Co-Founder, Out of The Box Media Literacy Initiative
  • Teguh Aprianto, Founder, Ethical Hacker Indonesia
  • Saritha Irugalbandara, Social Media Analyst – Gender and Sexuality, Hashtag Generation

The pandemic has fueled the growth of digital labour platforms and made it easier and more convenient for people to find and carry out work. But while this presents a host of opportunities for workers and businesses, there are challenges in ensuring that workers are afforded labour protections. In Indonesia, for instance, the current social protection program does not cover those working in the digital economy, excluding them from availing certain benefits.


  • Parminder Jeet Singh, Executive Director, IT for Change
  • Sunniva Sandbukt, Assistant Professor, IT-University of Copenhagen
  • Donhathai “Wow” Sutassanamarlee, Senior Consultant, Kenan Foundation Asia

With increased reliance on the internet, more people are exposed to various digital dangers lurking online. From phishing and cyberattacks to online harassment and intimidation, these threats can target anyone. Good digital safety practices are key to decrease vulnerability and minimise potential harms.


  • Darika Bamrungchok, Program Manager, Thai Netizen Network
  • Shinte Galeshka, Digital Security Specialist, Access Now
  • Ba Hein, former EngageMedia Digital Rights Coordinator for Myanmar
Civil society organisations, human rights defenders, and digital rights advocates are increasingly being targeted by state surveillance. Using open and secure technology – such as virtual private networks, encrypted password managers, and secure messaging apps – can help reduce the risk of these digital surveillance activities. Compared to mainstream Big Tech platforms, however, these technologies are not as widely used. This focus group discussion aims to scrutinise the reasons behind this, and discuss how changemakers can work in more secure, ethical, and sustainable ways by using, promoting, and developing open source alternatives.

Be part of our upcoming digital rights events

Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Forum

January 12 and 13, 2023: Online
January 14, 2023: In-person solidarity events in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand

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15 thoughts on “Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Forum”

    1. Hi Aung Linn, thank you for your question. Break-out session 11 and 12, are probably most relevant for those interested in digital security. Especially the FGD on Open and Secure Tech will have a strong focus on digital security and countering state surveillance. Looking forward to seeing you there!

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