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How quickly the world can move when forced. The escalation of COVID-19 cases worldwide has greatly impacted the daily lives of citizens in many countries. In the Philippines, the entire Luzon island is on lockdown. Malaysia as a whole is on lockdown. While some countries are still dragging their heels, most countries in Southeast Asia have already increased restrictions.

This past week, we at EngageMedia have been busy ensuring the safety of our staff and affiliates in the countries we work in: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Australia. This has included closing our offices and shifting to a fully remote setup, which fortunately has mostly been our default since we began in 2005. While eight staff live under lockdown, our work continues, with online platforms keeping us connected.

Short- to medium-term repercussions will be severe and highly dependent on how each government responds. The situation has transformed daily life, and it will also change regional geopolitics, with increasing risks of authoritarianism and the curtailment of human rights, not to mention the widespread economic downturn that will impact millions.

As people’s movements are increasingly curtailed, digital rights and freedom of expression are already being impacted. But media and technology are also being used in a variety of positive ways, particularly in connecting people together to find solutions to collective challenges brought about by this pandemic.

This week, EngageMedia has been rapidly adjusting how we do our work. After several large in-person events last year, we are lucky most of our projects this year are focused online. Still, significant adjustments are required to ensure our work is relevant to the changing realities.

For example, we’ll be including coverage of COVID-19 as it relates to digital rights and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia. We’ll also explore how people use video to document the crisis, share knowledge, and support each other in various ways.

We will also start helping nonprofits in the region shift to remote working – both internal work and public activities. If you’re interested, please contact us.

As things unfold, we may also ask for your help to ensure we can keep supporting others.

Wishing you good health and strong spirits.

All the best,

Andrew Lowenthal
Executive Director