World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


World’s Press Condemns Arrest of Myanmar Journalists, Calls for Immediate Release

World’s Press Condemns Arrest of Myanmar Journalists, Calls for Immediate Release

Article ID:

22160

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum (WEF) have called for the release of three journalists from Eleven Media Group arrested in Myanmar for their coverage of land and construction deals involving public officials, and condemns the harsh application of the Penal Code as an attempt to silence public interest investigative reporting.

Paris, France 16 October 2018
For immediate publication

 

Chief Editor Kyaw Zaw Lin, Editor-in-Chief Nari Min, and Chief Reporter Phyo Wai Win were arrested on 10th October following their coverage of the controversial business ventures of the Yangon Regional Government. The three have been accused of defaming the Regional Government by publishing “incorrect information” and charged under Article 505 (b) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which does not permit bail and carries a maximum punishment of two years in prison.

Arrest warrants were issued on 9 October and the three journalists voluntarily presented themselves at Tamwe Township police station the following day, before being remanded into custody at the township court. They have been sent to Insein Prison to await trial.

The lawsuit against the journalists has attracted significant criticism within Myanmar and has been widely condemned as an “inappropriately harsh reaction for a democratic government”. The Eleven Media investigation was reportedly based on lawmakers’ budget discussions in the Yangon parliament, and is not the first to query the actions of the local government and its officials.

Yangon Chief Minister, U Phyo Min Thein, has faced growing public opposition over his government’s handling of its fiscal responsibilities, while his own heavy-handed approach to criticism and overwhelmingly negative attitude towards the press has been widely viewed as contrary to Myanmar’s democratic aspirations. In 2016, he sued Eleven CEO, Dr Than Htut Aung, laureate of the 2013 WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom, over a story that questioned the provenance of an expensive watch and examined the extent of his alleged ties to unscrupulous business figures in the local community.

The Yangon government has also been the subject of public outcry after the auditor general submitted an explosive report to the regional parliament on the government’s fiscal 2016-17 budget. Lawmakers found irregularities including the government’s arranging of a 13.5-million-kyat loan from two private banks to its own companies, without parliament’s approval.

WAN-IFRA condemns this latest attempt to suppress free media in Myanmar and calls on the Yangon Chief Minister and his government to release Nari Min, Kyaw Zaw Linn, and Phyo Wai Win and to thoroughly investigate the claims uncovered by their reporting. Rather than punishing investigative reporting that is designed to safeguard the public interest, officials in Myanmar should acknowledge the role of independent media as a necessary support to democratic institutions.

Applying draconian laws and harsh penalties instead of promoting transparency and accountability is an attempt to silence journalism and shows the country has a long way to go before it can truly claim to be making ground towards achieving a free press and respecting freedom of expression.

 


ABOUT WAN-IFRA: WAN-IFRA is the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. Its mission is to protect the rights of journalists and publishers across the world to operate free media and provide its members with professional services to help their business prosper in a digital world and perform their crucial role in open societies. With formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, it derives its authority from its global network of leading news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, and its legitimacy from its 80 national association members representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries. www.wan-ifra.org

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2018-10-17 11:17

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...