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Caught Between State Censorship and Self-Censorship: Prosecution and Intimidation of Media Workers in Myanmar

By Amnesty International  •  June 16, 2015

imageMyanmar’s media landscape has seen a radical change since the country embarked on a series of important political, economic and social reforms, announced by President Thein Sein in March 2011. The lifting of pre-publication censorship, the release of imprisoned journalists and greater space for freedom of expression have seen the development of an increasingly vibrant and diverse media. These media reforms have been lauded by many in the international community, who are keen to point to increased media freedoms as one of the hallmarks – and successes – of Myanmar’s reform process.

However, the story does not end there. Despite the media reforms, journalists and other media workers in Myanmar face ongoing restrictions in carrying out their work. As these critics become more vocal and the authorities feel more threatened, they have increasingly resorted to tried and tested tactics to stifle dissent. In particular, those deemed critical of the government and the Myanmar Army or who report on subjects which the government or army consider sensitive can face intimidation, harassment and at times arrest, detention, prosecution and even imprisonment.

Since 2014, the situation of freedom of expression has been deteriorating again. During 2014 at least 11 media workers were imprisoned in connection with their peaceful journalistic activities, while others reported direct threats, surveillance, restrictions on access to certain areas of the country, and the use of defamation lawsuits to stifle critical or independent reporting. In October 2014, one journalist was killed by soldiers while held in military custody in an egregious example of the risks media workers continue to face. Threats and intimidation also emanate from extreme Buddhist nationalist groups against media workers and organizations covering anti-Muslim violence in the country. Such cases have had a chilling effect on journalists and other media workers in Myanmar, and have led to a climate in which self-censorship is widely practised.

Ensuring that journalists and other media workers are able to undertake their professional activities free from harassment, harm and the fear of prosecution and imprisonment is an essential component to the promotion and protection of human rights in Myanmar. Journalists and other media workers often play a crucial role in exposing human rights abuses perpetrated both by powerful state and non-state actors.

Download the full briefing in English here.

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This post is in: ASEAN, Crimes Against Humanity, Human Rights, Law

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