Myanmar: Journalists and media workers threatened by junta

Media workers from Myanmar news outlets BBC Burmese and The Irrawaddy have been forced into hiding after Myanmar’s military junta threatened legal action against them for allegedly misreporting on a conflict in Mon state. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the blatant intimidation of journalists and calls on the military junta to cease its repression of journalists.

Junta officials announced their intention to sue journalists from The Irrawaddy and BBC Burmese on October 14. Credit: Facebook

On October 12, fighting broke out near the Kyaiktiyo pagoda in Mon State’s Kin Mun Chaung village after members of an unidentified armed group attacked the junta’s outpost. While media outlets have struggled to verify reports, all indicate that at least three people were killed, with over 10 wounded.

While the Myanmar military blamed the attack on the People’s Defence Force, an armed anti-junta group, journalists from The Irrawaddy and BBC Burmese reported that junta soldiers were responsible for the deaths of three individuals after they fired random shots into a crowd.

Two days later, in a broadcast on state-run news outlet Myanmar Radio and Television, junta representatives announced they would take legal action against journalists from BBC Burmese and The Irrawaddy under the Electronic Communications Law, News Media Law and state defamation law. According to reports, junta representatives insulted the reporters’ character, and claimed media workers from The Irrawaddy and BBC Burmese violated basic media ethics.

The junta's threats against journalists and media outlets have drawn criticism from local and international groups. Myint Kyaw, former Secretary of the Myanmar Press Council said the threats against the locally based BBC Burmese were a blatant attempt to encourage self-censorship and steer editorial policy at the outlet. According to reports, local BBC Burmese staff and their families have been forced into hiding for fear of retribution from junta forces.

Since the military coup in February 2021, journalists and media workers have been persecuted, with many facing charges of incitement, defamation or sedition for working. In the past month alone, photojournalist Toru Kubota was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly distributing information critical of the junta, while Voice of America journalist Sithu Aung Myint was sentenced to 3 years in prison under charges of incitement.

The IFJ said: “Myanmar’s military junta continues to brutalise the media industry and press freedom. The IFJ condemns the threats made against BBC Burmese and The Irrawaddy journalists and urges the Myanmar military to allow journalists and media practitioners to operate without fear of violence or legal persecution.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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