Press Freedom in Myanmar Deteriorating

Eight months after Myanmar’s military coup, local journalists in the country admit that journalists’ lives there have become “getting more difficult”. Since seizing power and toppling the democratically elected government, the military has sought to control media coverage.

Access to social media and the internet has been blocked, and at least five local media licenses have been revoked. Authorities have also detained dozens of journalists covering protests against the junta taking place in several parts of Myanmar.

In the following months, the media have been forced to restructure their operations by working from or online or forced to work from exile.

Win Zaw Naing, a journalist at Red News Agency who is based in Yangon, said he was stuck indoors for seven months, and had to work almost entirely independently online.

“It is almost impossible to report from the field. I didn’t leave the house and didn’t see anyone. I did it online, I made a phone call,” he told FLY.

From February 1 to September 27 at least 102 journalists have been arrested and at least 48 of them are still in custody, according to the Facebook group Information on Detained Journalists and Reporting ASEAN, an organization that documents acts of violence by the Myanmar military.

Police detain the Myanmar Now journalist in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 27, 2021. Press freedom in Myanmar has deteriorated since a military coup in early February.  (Photo: AFP)

Police detain the Myanmar Now journalist in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 27, 2021. Press freedom in Myanmar has deteriorated since a military coup in early February. (Photo: AFP)

Most of the journalists were detained under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code, which criminalizes content deemed to incite fear or spread false news about the government. Those accused of trespassing face up to three years in prison.

Myanmar’s military has denied restricting journalists’ movements. Spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said in March that the military “respects and values ​​media freedom.”

In a statement last week about American journalist Danny Fenster, the spokesman said, “for journalists, if they are only doing journalistic work, there is no reason to arrest them.”

Fenster, the executive editor of Frontier Myanmar, has been in custody since May 24. (lt/ka)

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