Burma: Persecution of
journalists continues ahead of World Press Freedom Day
Paris, Bangkok, 2 May 2014:
The Burmese government must end the persecution of journalists
and release all five reporters currently jailed in the country,
FIDH and its member organization Alternative ASEAN Network on
Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma) said today.
“The increasing persecution of journalists
under President Thein Sein is reminiscent of the ways in which
the military junta behaved under Senior General Than Shwe,”
said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “The international
community must realize that renewed pressure is needed in order
to prevent the further deterioration of freedom of expression
in Burma,” he added.
On 26 April, authorities in Prome, Pegu Division, charged Mizzima
News reporter Yae Khe for organizing a demonstration that called
for greater press freedom in Burma and the release of the five
journalists currently imprisoned in the country. Authorities
accused him of organizing the protest without obtaining the
authorities’ prior permission – a violation of Article
18 of the Peaceful Gathering and Demonstration Law. The charges
against Yae Khe are the latest in a series of events that clearly
illustrate that media repression in Burma has increased.
On 7 April, a court in Magwe, Magwe Division,
sentenced Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) video journalist Zaw
Pe to one year in prison on charges of trespassing and disturbing
a civil servant on duty. In actual fact, Zaw Pe was imprisoned
for conducting an interview about a scholarship program at the
Magwe Division Education Department in August 2012.
On 31 January and on 1 February, police arrested four Unity
Weekly reporters, Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw,
and Sithu Soe and Unity Weekly CEO Tint San on charges that
they violated the outdated 1923 Official Secrets Act. The arrests
came in response to a 25 January article published by the Unity
Weekly, which claimed that the country’s military had
a secret chemical weapons factory in Pauk Township, Magwe Division.
The trial of the four journalists and CEO began in Pakokku District
Court, Magwe Division on 17 March. If convicted, they could
face up to 14 years in jail.
On 17 December 2013, a court in Loikaw Township, Karenni State,
sentenced Eleven Media Group (EMG) reporter Ma Khine to three
months in prison on various charges, including defamation, in
connection with an investigation she conducted into allegations
of corruption in October 2013.
“After a short reprieve, the harassment, arrest,
and imprisonment of journalists in Burma have resumed. If President
Thein Sein’s administration is serious about pursuing
democratic reforms, it must immediately and unconditionally
release all five detained journalists. The authorities must
cease all acts of harassment against the media and allow journalists
to do their job without hindrance, obstruction or intimidation,”
said ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator and FIDH Secretary-General Debbie
The crackdown on journalists comes amid the adoption of new
media legislation that failed to remove all obstacles to a free
press. The Printing and Publishing Law, adopted by Parliament
on 4 March, replaced the draconian 1962 Printers and Publishers
Registration Act and removed prison terms for violators of the
law. However, the new law authorizes the Information Ministry
to grant and revoke publishing licenses and bans the publication
of material that “insults” religion, undermines
the “rule of law” or harms ethnic unity. Authorities
had used similar overly broad expressions to prosecute journalists
under the former military regime.
Debbie Stothard (English) - Tel: +66 81 6861652 (Bangkok)