Aung San Suu Kyi’s broken promises
After the National League for Democracy’s first election victory under Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership in 2012, Myanmar’s journalists hoped they would never again have to fear arrest or imprisonment for criticizing the government or military. However, media freedom is clearly not one of the priorities of the government led by the “Lady of Yangon,” which has ruled since 2016. Myanmar rose 20 places in the World Press Freedom Index from 2013 to 2017, but now the reverse is taking place. The biggest blow to press freedom has been the seven-year prison sentence that Reuters journalists Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo received in September 2018 for trying to investigate a massacre of Rohingya civilians. They were finally pardoned after more than 500 days in prison and a major international campaign for their release, but their conviction on the basis of fabricated evidence and bogus criminal proceedings still stands. Their fate served as a warning to all journalists, who will think twice before attempting investigative reporting that could upset either the civilian government or “Tatmadaw,” as the armed forces are known.
The level of self-censorship is very high, especially on three subjects: the Rohingyas (a term that is banned), the Buddhist religion (Myanmar’s social glue) and Aung San Suu Kyi, seen by the vast majority as the mother of the nation. A number of media outlets – including Mawkun Magazine, news sites such as Myanmar Now, DVB and Mizzima, and BBC Burmese – are nonetheless producing promising investigative journalism. Unfortunately, their audience is limited in size and, in general, the economic model of the privately-owned media continues to be extremely fragile. Journalists are still often prosecuted under article 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Act, which criminalizes online defamation. Meanwhile, state-owned media continues to function as government propaganda outlets, while the free flow of news and information online is severely curtailed in the west of the country, where the military have completely disconnected the Internet in several districts on “security” grounds.
138 in 2019
44.92 in 2019