"2018 has been a bleak year for independent media. President Trump consistently attacks journalists as purveyors of “fake news” and “the enemies of the American people.” Illiberal democracies in Poland and Hungary have undermined traditional media outlets, and authoritarian regimes in Turkey and Venezuela have used political and social unrest as justification for crackdowns on independent news organizations. In this otherwise gloomy picture, Southeast Asia stands out a beacon of hope, as newly open if not always democratic governments struggle to institutionalize freedom of expression. In Malaysia, the newly elected government has claimed that it supports the freedom of press and that it will abolish the anti-fake new law but it has also indicated that media reporting should be done within established limits. In Timor Leste, there is a new press law, and a media council has been seated; Myanmar is also struggling to institutionalize and codify these reforms. In an era of budget cuts to US public diplomacy efforts, China has emerged as more of a regional player, and is engaged in multi-faceted media development efforts, although these efforts are viewed by many as a means of undermining nascent press freedoms. Janet Steele engages in a conversation about the challenges inherent in strengthening and institutionalizing freedom of expression in a region that has until recently been dominated by authoritarian regimes."