Ensure freedom of the press in Myanmar: Fortify Rights

Burma By Corto Maltese 1999 source Wikipedia
Burma By Corto Maltese 1999 source Wikipedia

Ensure freedom of press in Myanmar: Fortify Rights

N.J. Thakuria, Guwahati: More organizations, after the Paris-based Reporters sans/without Borders, have come to support the Rakhine (Arakanese) media fraternity which has been targeted by the Burmese authorities filing criminal defamation complaints against four Development Media Group (DMG) journalists.

“The Myanmar government should immediately drop criminal defamation and other complaints against four ethnic-Rakhine journalists,” said Fortify Rights in a statement issued recently. The human rights watchdog (www.fortifyrights.org/) also urged the authorities to unconditionally release all journalists arbitrarily detained for engaging in legitimate activities as press members.

Mentionable is that the Union government in Naypietaw on 22 January 2021 filed criminal defamation complaints under section 66(d) of the country’s telecommunications laws against DMG journalists Hnin New and Nay Win San for publishing a story alleging the military confiscated rice and used forced labor in Rakhine State.

Two other staff members namely Aung Kyaw Min and Aung Marm Oo of the Sittwe-based ethnic-Rakhine-led media outlet that primarily reports on human rights violations and other issues of the State are currently facing criminal charges, brought by the concerned Myanmar authorities in December 2020 and May 2019, respectively.

“There is no room for criminal defamation laws in a rights-respecting country,” said Ismail Wolff, regional director of Fortify Rights
adding that journalism is not a crime. These cases are yet another attempt to silence efforts to expose the truth of human rights
violations happening in Arakan State, asserted Wolff.

Hnin New and Nay Win San are facing charges following an article published in DMG on 10 January, where they claimed that Myanmar military personnel looted 700 baskets of unhusked rice paddy a few days back. It also added that the security forces compelled many Kyauktaw residents to work in rice mills.

Aung Kyaw Min  and  Aung Marm Oo, whose cases still remain pending, may also face punishments up to five years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to one million Myanmar Kyat (US$751) if proved guilty under the concerned telecommunications laws.