On Monday on World Press Freedom Day, 16 Western countries and the European Union called on Myanmar’s military junta to immediately release a score of media personnel arrested after the 1 February coup over the country’s democratically elected government. gave.
The junta’s first step after seizing control of Naipedaw was to gain control of the airwaves, the Internet, and print. It blocked the most military-friendly channels from satellite broadcasting, revoked the licenses of many media outlets, shut down Internet and mobile phone services and intimidated, threatened, and arrested members of the media, claiming that they had various Laws have broken their work.
According to a statement from Western countries, more than 80 journalists and media personnel have been arrested since the coup and more than half are in custody.
“Media freedom is a cornerstone of democratic societies and a source of legitimacy that must be unconditionally protected and guaranteed. Journalists should be free to report.
“We call for the immediate release of all media personnel, the establishment of freedom of information and communication, and the end of all Internet restrictions in Myanmar,” it said.
Also signing the statement were the Czech Republic, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Following the statement of Western nations, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michel Bachelet said after a low country-specific issue on Sunday that a free and uncensored press was necessary for a democratic society.
“Around the world, people have increasingly taken to the streets to demand their economic and social rights, as well as an end to discrimination and systemic racism, impotence and corruption. Journalists who have fulfilled their fundamental role of reporting on these social protests have become intolerably targets.
“The silence of a journalist is as a detriment to society… We should demand it [journalists’] Rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
Several journalists at the now-banned media outlets told RFA’s Myanmar Service that their organizations were targeted for accurate reporting about the state of human rights.
“Myitkyina News Journal Kachin is a local magazine representing the state. It is the only popular magazine legally published here with a large audience. We see the ban on our magazine as a deliberate attempt to blacken the news for the Kachin people, ”Seung Mai, editor-in-chief of the magazine, closed on Sunday, told RFA.
“We have reported human rights abuses since the military takeover. It is because of this, as we wrote about the crimes, that he committed that he shut us down. But we were just telling the truth, ”said Seung Mai.
Six other news outlets were closed between February 1 and March 8 Mizima, DVB, 7 Days, Myanmar Now, and Khit Thit News.
DVB executive director AE Chan Ning told RFA that journalists are targeted only for their work.
“Six officially registered media outlets, including ours, have had their licenses revoked. Journalists are arrested only for covering the news and telling people what is happening in the country.
“In the history of Myanmar, now is the worst time for freedom of the press,” he said.
Mizima president Sean Win said the country is now facing a “dark age” without the pressures of functioning.
“On February 1, Mizima and DVB were removed from the free to air TV channels. Then the army took over [the satellites]. This is how it all started. After that, [junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing] Closed more outlets and started arresting. Senior Win said that his actions are completely incompatible with democracy.
The RFA has confirmed that 45 journalists arrested between February 1 and Sunday are still in custody. More than 40 have been charged with Section 505 (a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which describes “defamation of the military” as illegal.
Myanmar Kawa, who was the Joint Secretary of the Myanmar Media Council for the ousted civilian government, told the RFA that Janta only wants a media that will not speak negatively about it.
“It’s true that they don’t want an independent media … I can see [Gen. Min Aung Hlaing] Only wants to use something for publicity, ”said Mynt Kyo.
“The state-owned media is still there all the time, working for publicity. In the current situation, the level of publicity is at its peak, ”the former secretary said.
State runner New light of myanmar The newspaper reported that junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hling opened the new Mywadi Media Center in Yangon on 3 May.
The newspaper said, “Media services need to prevent widespread infiltration of concepts, lifestyles and culture of developed countries using modern multimedia to serve their interests in other countries and in political, economic and social sectors. To attack. “
Local journalists told RFA that media restrictions existed even under the civil government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, but the press was still relatively independent in terms of what they could cover.
Although journalists may have seen that period as a golden era for reporting, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said dark clouds were already gathering in the midst of its 2015–20 term.
It cited the prosecution in 2018 of two Reuters reporters who had exposed the army massacre of Muslim Rohingya civilians in western Myanmar and jailed for 500 days “based on fabricated evidence and bayoneted criminal proceedings”.
“This coup was not a complete surprise as the atmosphere for freedom of the press had deteriorated again during the last three years,” the RSF said.
RFA reported by Myanmar Services. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Wong.