Freedom of the press and the challenges facing journalists in Myanmar

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Caption – Myanmar journalists

Freedom of the press and the challenges facing journalists in Myanmar

Since the military coup in Myanmar, the military council has continuously cracked down on independent media, arbitrarily arresting and prosecuting journalists, issuing arrest warrants, raiding newsrooms, and revoking business licenses.

In Myanmar, over 100 journalists have been arrested under various pretexts since the coup. Among them are those who have been killed, those who have been detained, those who are facing trials, and those who have been forced to hide in border areas or other safe places abroad or inside Myanmar.

In light of these circumstances, to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, Development Media Group (DMG) has gathered the voices of some individuals working in the media sector on the challenges facing journalists in Myanmar in relation to press freedom.

Photo – Social Media

Naung Naung (Planning Editor / Mizzima) –

Even though today is World Press Freedom Day, journalists in Myanmar are subject to severe repression under the military dictatorship. Many journalists are still imprisoned today. Several independent news outlets and journalists have had to flee to other countries or border areas to continue their work because of the junta’s arrests. I myself came to the border area to continue my news work despite the difficulties. Although some journalists are still working in the country, they are under round-the-clock watch by the military intelligence. It is not surprising that the military council arrests journalists to cover up their crimes against the people, just as successive dictatorships have done. But we are only doing our job to expose what is happening on the ground so that people can have access to real news and hold the perpetrators accountable. That is why the imprisoned journalists must be released. It saddens me to see journalists, who are indispensable reform for the country, wasting their time behind bars.

A veteran media trainer –

The current situation for journalists in Myanmar can be described as the worst in history. Although we say that gathering news and reporting to inform the public is not a crime, successive rulers have routinely persecuted, arrested and jailed journalists. Worst of all was the junta’s crackdown on journalists after the 2021 coup, in which news work itself was criminalized and numerous journalists were arrested, jailed and even killed. The fact that journalists in the country have to work in secret without revealing their identity as journalists shows how bad the security situation is for them in this country. It is important that imprisoned journalists are released and can freely gather and report news.

Wunna Khwar Nyo (Editor-in-Chief, Western News) –

After the military coup, press freedom has deteriorated sharply. The junta continues to unlawfully arrest or kill journalists, arbitrarily detain them, raid journalists’ homes and raid news outlets. Recently, journalist Phoe Thiha was murdered in Arakan State and his body was secretly buried. So far, the military has done nothing to investigate this case or bring anyone to justice. The military has dossiers on individual Arakanese journalists and their personal details. This means that they can be arrested at any time. The junta acts like a hellhound, not hesitating to destroy even the public if their interests are threatened, let alone the press freedom. All detained journalists must be released immediately. The charges against journalists should also be dropped.

Hsaung Zar Chi (Senior Reporter, Development Media Group) –

Journalists can no longer openly identify themselves as such on the ground. There is no freedom even when writing news. This is the climate of fear that the junta has created. It arrests journalists and carries out raids against them. Journalists face major security challenges. In Arakan, some journalists had to flee from the junta, while others were displaced due to fighting. So today I want to say: allow journalists to report freely and release all detained journalists immediately.

A freelance journalist from Arakan State –

Since the military coup, the media sector has been plunged into darkness. There is no more freedom of the press. The junta arrests and imprisons journalists and uses various means to suppress the existence of the media. Thus, journalists from liberated areas work under difficulties and challenges to provide the public with accurate news. In the conflict-ridden Arakan State, journalists face life-threatening situations as well as phone and internet disruptions. This has made their work very challenging. I have respect for the journalists who stand with the people, truth and justice despite these difficulties. On this World Press Freedom Day, I wish for the swift return of press freedom following the downfall of the military dictatorship.

Aung Htein (DMG)

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