The Dili Dialogue Forum 2022, the CITL’s annual international conference held from August 25-26 for the first time since 2019, brought together representatives from the Press Councils of Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand, as well as media practitioners and experts from the region, including IFJ Asia-Pacific legal advisor Jim Nolan.
During the event, the IFJ raised concern at the attendance of U Aye Chan, a representative of the Press Council of Myanmar, whose presentation presented a favourable depiction of press freedom in Myanmar, contrary to the picture described by international press freedom and human rights bodies.
Chan failed to disclose that in early 2021, half of the members of the Myanmar Press Council resigned, stating that they were unable to perform their duties of protecting press freedom, upholding media ethics, or protecting the safety of fellow journalists under the Tatmadaw’s oppressive regime. The 15 resignations from the Press Council were in response to censorship requirements issued by Myanmar’s military and real concerns over the safety of journalists following legal and physical threats.
In a statement, the CITL acknowledged its respect of all speakers’ rights to freedom of expression during the forum but said Chan’s presentation was “totally misleading and reflects more the political position of the military Junta, Tatmadaw, than the real situation of press freedom in Myanmar.”
The CITL also rejected the account of the Dili conference given by Chan in a piece published by the Myanmar News Agency on August 29, which stated that event attendees “expressed their astonishment over the presentation at the forum in comparison with the fake news of Myanmar mentioned in the international media.”
The IFJ’s representative, Jim Nolan, said: “Chan’s presentation was a series of barefaced lies designed to promote the Tatmadaw dictatorship and deny the widespread acknowledgement of Media repression in Myanmar.”
Since the military coup in Myanmar, many journalists and media workers have been driven into exile, with others have faced physical attacks, harassment, imprisonment, and torture. The nation’s independent media has been shuttered, with the junta forcibly closing the offices of media outlets and revoking broadcasting licenses.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ welcomes the action taken by the Press Council of Timor-Leste and the exclusion of Tatmadaw appointed representatives of the Myanmar Press Council from future regional events. The claims made regarding the situation of press freedom in Myanmar are highly concerning, and the Myanmar Press Council must be condemned for abdicating its role as a supporter and advocate of a free press.”