Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Burmese authorities to do everything possible to arrest and prosecute all those who had anything to do with last week’s bomb explosion at the home of Min Min, the chief editor of the Root Investigative Agency (RIA), in the troubled western state of Arakan.
It was the first time that a media professional has been the target of an act of violence of this kind in Burma. “We are very concerned so see media freedom’s enemies crossing this threshold,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We take note of the initial measures adopted by the security forces and we urge them to redouble efforts to identify and catch this attack’s perpetrators and instigators. A strong message must be sent to those who target news providers, in order to prevent a climate of impunity and an ensuing climate of violence and self-censorship.” Based in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan, RIA has often been the target of threats, especially on social networks, ever since its creation in August 2015. RIA’s journalists have been warned on Facebook that “your time is near.” A message posted after the explosion said: “This was only a warning and more attacks are coming.” In Viber and Facebook discussion groups, a price of “20 lakhs” (27,000 euros) has been put on the heads of RIA’s two leading journalists. The bomb went off in the garden of Min Min’s home at around 11:20 p.m. on 10 March. No one was hurt, but only by chance. The police protected the house until the next morning. The local authorities said the Arakan Army, an armed separatist group, may have been behind the bombing even if it has not claimed responsibility. RIA said it thought its investigative reported prompted the attack. Ever since the clashes between the local Buddhists and Muslims groups in Arakan state in June 2012, many Burmese and foreign journalists have been subjected to intimidation and even prevented from working freely. After discussing the problems resulting from the lack of information about the violence, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in June 2013 calling for journalists to be given unrestricted access to sensitive regions of Burma such as Arakan state, where people of Rohingya origin are in the majority. Read the report entitled “Crisis in Arakan state and new threats to freedom of information” that RSF published in June 2012. Burma is ranked 144th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index.