Myanmar: Regional union body stands with Myanmar journalists

On the second anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar, the South East Asia Journalists Unions (SEAJU) strongly condemned the military junta’s continued gross violations of human rights, persecution of journalists and attacks on independent media. The region’s media unions called on the international community to increase pressure on Myanmar’s military to guarantee the safety of all Burmese citizens and cease the state-sanctioned violence, arbitrary arrests and draconian laws that have suppressed activists and stifled freedom of expression.

Credit: Council of Global Unions

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), as of January 31, 2023, the military has killed 2,940 activists and civilians, with at least 13,763 people currently detained. 143 people have been sentenced to death and four have been executed since the military’s coup on February 1, 2021. As many as 62 journalists are among those still in jail or police detention, according to IFJ monitoring.

In the first verified arrest of 2023, Kanbawza Tai News Agency editor-in-chief, U Kyaw Zay Ya, was jailed for one year on January 9 under section 505A of Myanmar’s Penal Code, a charge often levelled against journalists which criminalises the incitement of ‘disobedience or disloyalty’ from members of the government.

Media rights violations continued to intensify in the final weeks of 2022, with Yangon reporter Soe Yar Zar Tun sentenced to four years imprisonment with hard labour on arbitrary terrorism charges following his re-arrest in March 2022 on December 16, and Thingangyun Post News editors Wai Linn Yu and Htet Htet Aung both sentenced to five years imprisonment for allegedly possessing explosive substances.

Journalists Mhu Yadanar Khat Moh Moh Tun and Ko Kaung Satt Lin, arrested after being hit by a military vehicle while covering anti-junta protests on Pannpin Gyi Road, were both sentenced to three years imprisonment on December 21.

On December 5, Aung Lwin, a frequent contributor to the Tanitharyi Journal, was handed a five-year prison sentence under Section 144a of the Penal Code, while Hanthar Nyein was sentenced to an additional five years in prison on December 26 under electronic transmissions legislation. On December 30, the founder and publisher of Media Top 4, Thurein Kyaw, was jailed for 10 years on terrorism charges, following his February 2022 arrest.

SEAJU remains critically concerned at the continued attacks and detainments of journalists, restrictions on internet access, surveillance, censorship, and human rights violations against civilians across the war-torn country.

On International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2, the IFJ launched ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Broadcast – Myanmar: IFJ Situation Report 2022’, which gathered the lived experiences of Burmese journalists and media workers living under the junta and called on the international community to increase pressure on Myanmar’s military junta to guarantee the safety of all Burmese citizens and call for a return to democracy.

The report found hundreds of journalists have been forced to find alternate work to survive, as media closures, satellite blackouts, confiscation of mobile phones, beatings and arrests have driven many in the profession into hiding. Misinformation continues to increase, with the public’s right to know forfeited as the junta denies access to coverage of news events.

Through its affiliate, the Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN), the IFJ has also documented the payment of professional journalists at citizen journalist rates following the coup. Further exacerbating financial issues for journalists operating under the junta or in exile, many international media outlets continue to pay diminutive amounts and fail to give credit for footage, images, and hard-to-source interviews with people inside Myanmar, including Internally Displaced People, People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) and Ethnic Armed Organisations.

On February 1, the Council of Global Unions, of which the IFJ is a member, called on all affiliated unions to demand national governments recognise the National Unity Government (NUG), formed in exile by democratically elected politicians, as the legitimate representative of the people of Myanmar, and the release of all political prisoners.

The SEAJU said: “As the second year under the military regime draws to a close, the gross human rights atrocities faced by journalists, media workers, activists, and civilians, both in Myanmar and in exile, show no signs of relenting. Despite assurances from the junta to the contrary, independent Burmese media have been shut down and silenced, as internet restrictions and stringent censorship further quash press freedom. In this time of crisis, SEAJU calls on the international community to work urgently to coordinate action to support and protect media workers living under the coup and restore legitimate democracy in Myanmar.”

SEAJU members

Alliance of Independent Journalists Indonesia (AJI)

Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ)

Cambodian Journalist Alliance Association (CamboJA)

Media and Creative Industry Workers Union for Democracy (SINDIKASI)

Myanmar Journalist Association (MJA)

Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN)

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)

National Union of Journalists (Peninsula Malaysia) (NUJM)

National Union of Journalists, Thailand (NUJT)

Timor Leste Press Union (TLPU)

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

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

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