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Investigating Asia’s digital sex crimes

An in-depth, cross-border investigation into image-based abuse in Asia

Asia has long been a global technology leader. But its success has brought dark consequences.

A growing number of digital sex crimes, including image-based abuse cases — where intimate images or videos are shared online without a person’s consent — have created a lucrative industry.

In some cases, criminals have used private information to blackmail women and children into performing sexually explicit acts on camera.

Thousands of victims have been exploited and traumatised. But it has proved difficult to police, especially across borders, and support for victims is inadequate.

JNI has brought together some of the region’s leading journalists to collaborate on a special investigation into this issue, as part of its Asian Stories initiative.

Journalists contributing to the series come from five media organisations in four countries:

Over the coming weeks the investigation will publish a number of feature articles, podcasts, and a documentary that exposes the legal loopholes exploited by this growing criminal industry.

By supporting quality reporting collaborations, JNI aims to help independent journalists produce regional stories and better connect Australian audiences to them.

The Institute is funding more reporting collaborations between Asian and international journalists in an effort to foster informed debate about the many social, economic and technological issues that define and challenge the region.

Series recognised at SOPA Awards

The investigation was recognised at the 2022 Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) Awards. The PCIJ’s four-part series “Digital Sex Crimes in Asia” by fellow and Philippine Star reporter Neil Jayson Servallos received an honourable mention in the Excellence in Human Rights Reporting category for regional news outlets.

The judges said the “heart-wrenching stories” in the series highlighted “an issue not widely known: the many who are forced into the digital sex trade amid the economic ravages of Covid-19.”

Asian Stories

Asia is home to half the world’s population. Its economy is bigger than the rest of the world’s combined. It is a growing source of technological innovation and its cultural influence is expanding.

Asian Stories reporting collaborations kick off

Asia is once again at the centre of the world. The world’s story is now an Asian story. But to tell that story the world needs great journalism — great journalism from Asia and great journalism about Asia.

Media coverage of the region does not always keep pace with its importance. Journalism in Asia is often focuses on domestic issues and collaborations by Asian media on regional issues are still relatively rare.

Asian Stories is JNI’s multi-year, multi-dimensional effort to help Asian and international journalists tell the region’s most important stories in intelligent and compelling ways.

It aims to encourage rich engagement between media in the region and counterparts outside it.

Asian Stories

About the collaboration

This project brought together journalists based in territories — Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia and Philippines — to produce in-depth investigative reports on digital crimes in Asia.