The political crisis in Myanmar unfolded on the morning that Myanmar’s newly-elected administration, led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was due to begin the first session of parliament. The country’s military had earlier claimed allegations of voter fraud. These claims have been rejected by Myanmar’s election commission.
On February 1, Myanmar’s military detained over 45 politicians and activists, including state counsellor Suu Kyi and president Myint, declaring a state of emergency for at least one year. Soon after the military takeover, phone lines were cut and internet access was heavily impacted, almost immediately serving to undermine the capacity of journalists and media personnel to cover the unfolding political crisis.
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Since the military coup and crackdown by Myanmar’s junta on the nation’s independent media, hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs with many media outlets shuttered. Despite the immeasurable challenges, many are still attempting to keep working and reporting, putting themselves at great risk to cover important news events, such as mass displacement and the arrest, torture and jailing of thousands of Burmese citizens. Through its affiliate, the Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN), the IFJ has noted that some media outlets are taking advantage of the situation and paying professional journalists at reduced rates as citizen journalists, ignoring the great risks, years of experience, and current challenging situation. While international media funders have rallied to the cause and offered financial support to many larger Myanmar media houses, smaller and independent journalists are not necessarily able to access international funding and rely on bosses to do the right thing. The launch of the IFJ anti-wage theft campaign, in collaboration with MJN and the Myanmar Women Journalists Society, supported by Norsk Journalistlag, sends a strong message to local media outlets and international media to stop the short-changing of Burmese journalists and media workers.