Burmese junta orders journalists’ to denounce protests

The IFJ is deeply concerned by reports from the Australia Burma Council (ABC) that the Burmese military junta have issued a new order to Rangoon based journals and newspapers to publish a declaration denouncing the ongoing protests led by monks.

The peaceful protest against the military began with approximately 5,000 people which soon escalated to 20,000. According to the Burma Media Association (ABC) the Burmese junta's director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, Major Tint Swe, instructed all Burmese print media at a meeting last Sunday to publish a declaration stating they were not interested in the ongoing protest.

IFJ Asia-Pacific director Jacqueline Park said the gagging of the media is unacceptable.

“The Burmese people have suffered from oppression and silencing at the hands of the junta regime, and this protest reveals their desire to have their issues addressed and heard in a peaceful manner,” Park said.

“The media plays a vital role in disseminating information and key issues to the public so the people can be informed and aware.”

Swe reportedly warned the media that by joining the ongoing protests or failing to carry the announcement in their papers, they would be deemed members of the illegal association, a tactic the junta has long used to arrest dissidents.

Authorities have now issued a night time curfew and a ban on public gatherings of more than five people, measures which will be enforced for 60 days. The protest is the biggest since the nation-wide pro-democracy uprising of 1988 led by students, which ended in bloodshed as the military killed many of the protesters.

Police and troops have now taken up positions outside at least six monasteries in Burma’s largest city, Rangoon, and security forces have been deployed throughout the area.

The IFJ supports the ABC in urging the Australian government to call for the Burmese junta to refrain from taking any strong action against the protesters.

“This protest is the result of years of unrest and it’s time the people had their voices heard,” Park said. “The media is crucial in representing these voices and the junta’s attempt to silence the media is undemocratic and a breach of the right to free speech.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries