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Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of Expression’

Draconian Sentences of Unity Weekly Journalists Must at the Very Least be Drastically Reduced

10 July 2014 Photo Lwin Lwin Myint IrrawaddyOn Thursday 28 August, lawyer Robert San Aung submitted to Magwe regional court the final appeal against the harsh verdicts brought against the five Unity Weekly journalists on10 July. They were sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment with hard labor following the publication of a report in January of this year that gave details of an alleged chemical weapons facility in central Burma. They were charged for trespass and for “disclosing state secrets” in violation of the 1923 Official Secrets Act (OSA). Robert San Aung submitted the appeal on the grounds that the four reporters are innocent and should therefore be released from prison, and that the sentence of the journal’s executive be reduced by half. The Magwe regional court is expected to issue a decision within a month.

While the offense under Section 3(1)(a) of the OSA is a strict liability offense – meaning that the prosecution only has to prove that the defendants were in the vicinity of the prohibited place for them to be found guilty – in order for the other convictions to stand, the burden is on the prosecution to show that the secrets alleged to have been leaked were intended to or were likely to have breached state security or assisted an enemy. The journalists must be shown to have leaked detailed and useful information, to have done more than just report that the facility was a weapons factory. It is not clear that the prosecution ever satisfied this requirement.

Even so, if the appeal submission fails to convince the court either that the journalists are not guilty of any substantive offenses, or that there are specific and legitimate defenses under the OSA that can be relied upon, then at the very least the appeal should be successful on grounds of mitigation regarding the alleged offenses, meaning that the sentences should at a minimum be drastically reduced [...]

September 2, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , | Read more >>

THREE MDCF ACTIVISTS JAILED, FOURTH ON TRIAL

Three activists from the Movement for Democracy Current Force (MDCF) have been imprisoned and a fourth is on trial, as a result of their peaceful political activities. They are prisoners of conscience [...]

August 28, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , | Read more >>

January – June 2014: Report on the Human Rights Situation on Burma

Reports on Human Rights Situation on Burma January-June 2014Introduction

The Network for Human Right Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma) is an organization that documents and reports human rights violations taking place throughout Burma. We are a watch-dog for human rights violations and are continually monitoring the human rights situation in Burma.

This report covers the first period of 2014 and focuses on 103 documented cases of human rights violations in Burma from January-June 2014. There are many serious human rights violations addressed and highlighted in this report, including: torture, extra-judicial killing, illegal arrests and detention, arbitrary taxation, property crimes, forced labor, human trafficking, forced displacement and rape.

Even though President U Thein Sein promised to release all political prisoners by the end of 2013, there are still many political prisoners in Burma, including new detainees in 2014. Many human right defenders and activists have been arrested under the Unlawful Association Act of 1908, Section 5 (e) and 5 (j) of the Emergency Provisions Act, and Section (18) of the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act. For example, U Win Cho and U Nay Myo Zin were arrested under Section (18) for protesting the confiscation of land in Kyauk Ta Dar Township, Yangon. Moreover, innocent Kachin IDPs were arrested under Section (17) of the Unlawful Association Act for suspected contact with ethnic armed groups. These actions reinforce the fact that the government in Burma is still willing to use oppressive and unjust laws against the Burmese people [...]

August 14, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Read more >>

Four Journalists Now “Only” Facing Two-year Sentences on Reduced Charges

A court in the southern Rangoon suburb of Padeban announced yesterday that the five Bi Mon Te Nay journalists still being held will no longer face charges under the draconian Emergency Act that carry a possible 14-year sentence, but will still be tried on lesser penal code charges [...]

August 5, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , | Read more >>

Four Detained Newspaper Journalists Appear in Court on Emergency Provisions Act Charges

Four of the seven journalists with the weekly Bi Mon Te Nay who were arrested more than two weeks ago on charges of publishing false information and threatening state security were brought before a court in the southern Rangoon suburb of Padeban on 22 July for a preliminary hearing [...]

July 25, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , | Read more >>

BURMA/MYANMAR: Immediate Need for Fair Trial and Remedies for Free Speech

During the three year period of new Myanmar Government, new political reforms have been taking place. The authorities stopped censoring the media in June 2012 and also allowed private news media groups to print newspapers in April 2013. As people in Burma only had state owned newspapers for the previous decade, elderly journalists and society of media appreciated this with welcoming heart. Today, news outlets can freely debate political issues and human rights abuse cases that they could not discuss during the military dictatorship, not because they were afraid of but because they could not get published. Even after they stopped censorship, prosecution of the government started to bring journalists in accordance with applicable laws [...]

July 21, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , | Read more >>

Myanmar: One Year on, President’s Promise to Release All Prisoners of Conscience Remains Unfulfilled

One year after President Thein Sein pledged to clear Myanmar’s jails of prisoners of conscience – a pledge which to date remains unfulfilled – Amnesty International calls on the Myanmar authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been imprisoned simply for the peaceful exercise of their human rights [...]

July 15, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , | Read more >>

A Return to the Bad Old Days for Freedom of Expression

12-July-Sai-Zaw-The-IrrawaddyIn a scarcely believable and punishingly harsh act of repression, four journalists and the CEO of Unity journal were sentenced by a Magwe Region court on 10 July to ten years imprisonment with hard labor for reporting on a story on a chemical weapons factory, giving a damming indictment of press freedom in Burma today. This occurred just days after President Thein Sein described Burma as “one of the freest in Southeast Asia” due to media reforms.

In January 2014, Unity journal published an investigative report on a chemical weapons factory in Magwe Region, central Burma, with accounts from factory workers, local villagers and photos of the site. While the Burma government eventually admitted it is a ‘standard ordnance factory’ that produces ordinary military equipment, an analysis of the images by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies concludes that there is strong evidence that this isn’t just a normal arms factory, and is consistent with chemical weapons factories in other places, such as North Korea. It is ironic that the journalists who published a story on chemical weapons are jailed for ten years under the State Secrets Act, while the Burma government denies it is making chemical weapons. Related to this, a point that has been overlooked slightly over the past week is that Burma must implement the measures of the Chemical Weapons Convention that it signed in 1993 and thus clear up the issue of whether Burma does have the capability to manufacture such equipment, as the Unity journalists reported and are now in prison for. [...]

July 15, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Read more >>

Burma: State Leash on Media Freedoms at its End

With the passage of Burma’s Press Law in April this year, there had been a glimmer of hope that the case of the journalists from Unity Journal​ would be given a bit of protection for their daring expose of an alleged chemical weapons plant in the Magwe division last January.

After all, the new law guaranteed that no journalist may be jailed for doing her or his work [...]

July 11, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Read more >>

Police Investigations and Prosecutions Used to Harass News Media

Until recently, the media freedom situation in Burma was very promising but this is no longer the case. Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the interrogation of many newspaper editors since 20 June and by the president’s recent expressions of hostility to freedom of information. In a threatening comment on 7 July, President Thein Sein said: “If there is any media that exploits media freedom and causes harm to national security rather than reporting for the sake of the country, effective legal action will be taken against that media.” [...]

July 10, 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Read more >>
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