Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of three journalists who were arrested after covering an event organized by an illegal armed group, and urges the authorities to drop the charges brought against them under the draconian Unlawful Associations Act.
The three journalists – Aye Naing and Pyae Phone Naing of Democratic Voice of Burma and Thein Zaw of The Irrawaddy – were charged and imprisoned in the northeastern city of Hsipaw on June 28, two days after their arrest. Their trial is due to start on July 10.
They were arrested after covering a drug-burning ceremony organized by the outlawed Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) to mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Under the Unlawful Associations Act, any form of contact with an outlawed group is punishable by up to three years in prison. It was widely used by the former military government to silence dissent for nearly half a century.
“Aung San Suu Kyi’s statements about free speech need to be more than just empty promises,” RSF said. “It is appalling to see the ruling National League for Democracy use the same laws as the previous military regime to censor the media. If the NLD wants to break with the military era’s archaic practices, it must send a clear message of support for democratic values, starting with media freedom.”
In Burma, the authorities continue to harass the media using laws that were specifically designed to silence criticism. Two Voice Daily journalists were detained last month as a result of a complaint brought by the military under the Telecommunications Act. In April, Myo Yan Naung, a human rights activist and NLD member, was jailed for criticizing the head of the armed forces on Facebook.
Burma is ranked 131st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
(c) 2017 Reporters Without Boarders