|ASIARIGHTS ISSUE ONE / JULY 2004|
I think it is fair to say that we live in an age of fear and insecurity. Particularly since the events of September 11 th 2001 there has been a worldwide mood of fear of terrorism, fear of so-called rogue states and anxieties about national security. In almost every country political debates have come to focus more and more on these problems, and most countries have recently introduced new laws or policies to counter terrorism, increase national security, tighten border control and other protective measures.
Many of these new policies, however, have profound implications for issues such as privacy, freedom of speech, and the rights of various religious and ethnic minorities. The general mood of anxiety and fear of the unknown has also, in many, countries, led to prejudice and sometimes, actual open attacks on minorities who are conceptualized as some kind of threat.
The media, print and digital, inform us about threats to security (real and imagined) and the responses to such threats. It plays a vital role in promoting public debate about security policies. The Internet in particular has emerged as a space where competing pictures of events and conditions in various countries battle for recognition. Often the Internet has enabled the exposure of human rights abuses that otherwise would not have become part of the public domain. It is also a dense and confusing cascade of information that may or may not be accurate and that can inflame rather than inform.
Fear promotes unreason and leads to responses both on a societal and individual level that have serious consequences for those who are conceived of as threatening. Our goal is to facilitate the dissemination of grounded information and knowledge, and to encourage the sharing of experiences across cultural and national divides that will work towards dispelling such fears and insecurities. To this end we have created ASIARIGHTS as a space of information exchange and a site of informed discussion of issues of these new insecurities and their effect upon human rights in the Asia Pacific region. The journal's geographical coverage is the Asia Pacific: Including Pakistan in the west and extending across to South, Southeast and Eastern Asia to Papua New Guinea, Australasia and the Pacific Islands in the east. ASIA RIGHTS encourages people from a variety of backgrounds, academic and non-academic to work together to protect and promote rights in this ‘ age of insecurity'. In this way we hope to explore what security may mean beyond a simple proliferation of arms and armed forces.
Our first issue carries four in-depth papers drawing upon the expertise of both academic and non-academic writers. In his paper ‘Dumbing Down Democracy' James Gomez brings his experience and knowledge of the Internet in Asia to bear on the recent tightening of state regulations and increased surveillance has been employed to restrict cyberactivism in the name of anti-terrorism. Park and Ramanathan critically examine so-called ‘emergency' laws. Ramanathan in ‘ Extraordinary Laws and Human Rights Insecurities' warns that an increase in state security in India will result in prejudicial use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2002). The consequences are an erosion of human rights, particularly for minority groups. Park's paper ‘ From National Security to Human Security: The Past and Future of the National Security Law in Korea' links the changes to and survival of the National Security Law (NSL), one of the most powerful laws in South Korea, to the differential impact of globalization and the drive to maintain power by political elites. Uemura's ‘Escape from Freedom' details Japan's push to revive security through nationalism, and exposes the disturbing proliferation of citizen-based organizations. He links such drives to similar home defense strategies that aided the formation of powerful groups dedicated to surveillance and control of citizenry in the United States. Uemura argues that such citizen surveillance coupled with crackdowns on ‘illegals' has serious consequences for any person or group in Japan who could be seen as ‘other'.
As a group these papers demonstrate the complexities surrounding the growth in insecurity in the region. The section News From Around the Region in this issue highlights current problems of concern. This section will be updated on a weekly basis. The first of our Profile series on regional social movements outlines some steps being taken by the people of the Asia Pacific region to address concerns highlighted by our feature articles.
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