Journalists and CSOs protest unfair ruling on 2 journalists in Mawlamyine citing government oppression of media freedom

September 19, 2018

HURFOM: On September 3rd, two Reuters journalists were sentenced to seven years in jail for breaching the “Official Secrets Act”. Despite journalistic protection under the 2014 “News Media Law, the two journalists were charged under the colonial era “Official Secret Act” and sentenced to long-term imprisonment.

Journalists and civil society organizations (CSOs) in Mon and Karen states have seen the imprisonment of the two journalists as an attack on media freedom, and organized a street protest on September 7th 2018.

Regarding the imprisonment of the two journalists, it’s not just that two journalists were jailed. It’s a threat to the media. That’s why we organized this protest,” said Nyan Soe Win, a journalist from The Irrawaddy, who led the protest.

The protesters demanded the release of the two convicted journalists, that government immediately stop the oppression of the media, and to have free access to information.

U Ko Ko Zaw, the Chief Editor of the Than Lwin Times Journal, said, “Journalists must be charged under the media laws. Media laws are the laws approved by the state. But they didn’t use the media laws and used oppressive laws to manipulate the situation. And the imprisonment of the journalists is a threat to the whole media world.”

U Ko Ko Zaw continued that freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are already approved by the constitution.

According to the constitution, there are rights to freedom of expression and rights to information. Those rights are officially approved by the constitution. But [the court] neglected the constitution and imprisoned the journalists. This is a big challenge for all journalists and a worrying situation for the media,” continued U Ko Ko Zaw.

According to Nyan Soe Win, the Myanmar News Media Law states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, and that right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of his choice.

Media freedom was blackened when journalists were sentenced to jail on a charge of breaching the “Official Secrets Act”. Right to information and media freedom are vital to a democratic society. Myanmar can’t be a successful democratic country if there is no media freedom,” said Nyan Soe Win.

More than 70 participants made up of journalists and members CSOs in Mon and Karen state contributed to the protest.

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