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POST TIME: 12 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Impossible to do journalism in Myanmar, says UN
DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT

Impossible to do journalism in Myanmar, says UN

A host of ill-defined laws has been used in Myanmar to exert control over independent journalism across the country, including in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states, a UN human rights report on freedom of expression in the country has found. The report released yesterday states that it has become “impossible for journalists to do their job without fear or favour.” While the conviction last week of two Reuters journalists, Kyaw Soe Oo and Thet Oo Maung, was a particularly outrageous and high-profile example of judicial harassment against the media in Myanmar, the report details a number of other examples of detentions and prosecutions of journalists and their sources indicative of wider trends of suppression of freedom of expression. Laws on telecommunications, official secrets, unlawful associations, electronic transactions and even import-export and aircraft acts have been used against journalists in a number of cases over the years, it states.

Detailing many instances of harassment and detention of journalists, the report also refers to “the instrumentalisation of the law and of the courts by the government and military in what constitutes a political campaign against independent journalism,” and the “failure of the judiciary to uphold the fair trial rights of those targeted.” “Together, the cases outline to journalists a clear choice between self-censorship and the risk of prosecution,” the report states.

“Given the importance of journalism for the public’s right to information, the restrictions imposed on media personnel have a broader implication in society,” it says.

UN high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet said the report laid bare the perilous position of independent journalists in Myanmar.

“Where journalists are jailed for merely visiting an area controlled by an armed group, when their sources are jailed for providing information from conflict zones, and where a Facebook post can result in criminal defamation accusations – such an environment is hardly conducive to a democratic transition,” she said.

“I call on the authorities to cease the legal and judicial harassment of journalists and to initiate a review of ill-defined laws that facilitate attacks on the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression,” she added.