Asia - Pacific
Index 2024
171/ 180
Score : 24.41
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
173/ 180
Score : 28.26
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

The military coup of 1 February 2021 obliterated the fragile progress towards greater press freedom that had been growing since the previous junta disbanded in 2011.

Media landscape

The 2021 coup shattered the media landscape. The junta quickly issued a list of media outlets that were banned for being outspoken, including the Democratic Voice of Burma, a media emblematic of the fight for press freedom. Many media outlets forced into exile have had to return to clandestine reporting techniques developed during the previous decades of military dictatorship to continue gathering reliable information inside the country. The government-controlled media, on the other hand, are just propaganda outlets that receive scant attention from the population. Between these two extremes, a handful of media outlets tread a delicate path between trying to inform their fellow citizens and the need to not offend the generals.

Political context

The State Administration Council does not tolerate an alternative to its narrative. To this end, it has reestablished the system of prior censorship and prevented the media from covering the numerous human rights violations. The head of the junta, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, openly promotes a policy of terror towards journalists who do not toe the junta’s line.

Legal framework

As well as often taking completely arbitrary action, the generals almost systematically invoke the very vaguely worded Section 505 (a) of the Penal Code, under which “false information” is punishable by three years in prison. Use is also made of Section 66 (d) of the telecommunications law, another legal archaism that criminalises defamation and can be used to send a journalist to prison if anyone disputes what they have written.

Economic context

The privately owned media’s economic model was already fragile before the coup. Investigative reporting by sites such as Myanmar Now and Mizzima had relatively few readers. As a result of the coup’s upheaval, the pro-government media have taken over the newsstands and airwaves, and the independent media have been reduced to clandestinity and therefore to even more uncertain modes of financing. At the start of 2022, the junta introduced a new system of taxation of Internet services, starting with SIM cards, the sole purpose of which is to make it harder for people to get news and information and to communicate online.

Sociocultural context

Before the 2021 coup, under the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, the climate surrounding press freedom was already difficult with the persistence of taboo issues, such as the plight of ethnic minorities. The biggest blow was the 2018 arrests of two Reuters journalists who had investigated a massacre of Rohingya civilians. They were subjected to a sham trial and finally pardoned and released after more than 500 days in prison. Their ordeal served as a warning to all journalists, who realised they would have to think twice before doing any investigative reporting that could embarrass Myanmar’s armed forces, the Tatmadaw. This case was accompanied by a surge in disinformation and hate speech on Facebook, whose failure to regulate content had a  disastrous impact on the public debate in Myanmar.


With significant risks of being tortured, jailed, or murdered, journalism is an extremely dangerous profession in Myanmar, which has become one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists, second only to China – and, relative to its population, by far the country that imprisons its journalists the most. The few accounts emerging from Myanmar’s jails reveal extremely harsh conditions and systemic use of torture. In some cases, these abuses lead to the death of journalists, adding to the long list of those killed by the junta.

Abuses in real time in Myanmar

Killed since 1st January 2024
1 journalists
0 media workers
Detained as of today
59 journalists
3 media workers