World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Protest Campaign - Myanmar, 7 February 2014

Protest Campaign - Myanmar, 7 February 2014

Article ID:

17409

His Excellency President Thein Sein
President of Myanmar,
Naypyidaw,
People’s Republic of the Union of Myanmar

 

Paris, 7 February 2014

 

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to call for the immediate release of five media professionals following their arrest for reporting on an alleged chemical weapons facility.

According to reports, Special Branch police arrested Unity Weekly journalist Lu Maw Naing, author of the report, on Friday 31st January. The publication’s CEO, Tint San, and journalists Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw, and Sithu Soe were detained the following day. It remains unclear where exactly the four are being held.

Yangon-based Unity Journal’s 25th January cover story detailed allegations of a secret chemical weapons factory located in Pauk Township, Magwe Division, in Myanmar’s central region. The report claims Chinese technicians were frequently seen at the facility and that its workers told reporters they were producing chemical weapons. The report also claimed several senior military figures, including former ruling junta leader Senior General Than Shwe and current Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, had visited the facility.

WAN-IFRA is extremely alarmed by local news reports claiming Lu Maw Naing could face charges of exposing state secrets that potentially carry the death penalty under Myanmar law. Aside from our organisation’s firm position that it is wholly unacceptable for a journalist’s life to be under threat for reporting the news, we are deeply concerned about the chilling effect such a severe punishment transmits to the wider journalistic community in Myanmar.

We would also like to highlight concerns raised by the Interim Myanmar Press Council that the usual judicial process was not followed in this case. Formal arrest warrants were not issued and the detentions failed to follow established procedure; the accused were not summonsed before the courts, thus denying them the opportunity to defend themselves against the serious allegations.

Furthermore, we respectfully remind you that the arrest of media professionals for simply doing their job can never be justified, and that to punish reporting into an issue of such clear public interest is a blow to the democratic aspirations of the new Myanmar. The decision to curtail the freedom of the press by arresting journalists, and the attempt to censor the story by removing copies of Unity Journal from circulation, are a reminder that Myanmar still has a long road to travel before it can claim to protect freedoms enshrined in international law.

We respectfully urge you to call for the release of the five detainees and to promote stronger guarantees for the freedom of the press in Myanmar. We also respectfully call on you to create the conditions necessary for the press to be free from intimidation and any form of government interference, and to seek the fostering of an environment in which the media is able to fulfil its essential role of protecting the public interest by holding power to account through rigorous investigation.


We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Tomas Brunegård
President
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

 

Erik Bjerager
President
World Editors Forum

 


WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2014-02-07 17:10

Contact information

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 ...