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A World Press Freedom Day without any free media in Myanmar

At least 130 journalists have been arrested and jailed since the 2021 military coup with 43 still in custody (including two from DVB), according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Myanmar was ranked near the bottom of the 2023 World Press Freedom Index at 173 out of 180. A new year amnesty in April saw no journalists released from prison. More than a third of journalists jailed by the military since the coup have been convicted, RSF stated.

Journalist and editor Kyaw Min Swe was arrested earlier this month in Yangon. He allegedly made defamatory comments on social media regarding the airstrikes on Pa Zi Gyi village in Sagaing Region. Kyaw Min Swe was charged under Section 505(A) of the Penal Code for “incitement” against the military. The maximum sentence is three years in prison. Most media workers have been charged for incitement, or the more serious crime of violating the Counter-Terrorism Law. The media crackdown has continued over the last two years as many journalists and media workers have fled to liberated areas of the country – under the control of ethnic resistance organizations (EROs) – or across the border into exile in Thailand or India. Several laws have been amended and new ones have been enacted in Myanmar since 2021 to silence any critical voices or reporting on the military.

Following the military coup, 13 independent outlets were banned, including DVB, Myanmar Now and Mizzima. Local and regionally-based media: Kantarawaddy Times, Mon News Agency, and Myitkyina News Journal have also been shut down or forced to relocate. At least four publishing houses have been shut down for printing materials deemed “offensive ethnically, religiously, and culturally” by the military. A book about the 2017 Rohingya genocide has been banned, and books about the LGBTIQ+ community are accused of being “obscene literature.” DVB Chief Editor Aye Chan Naing called for action from the international community and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ahead of World Press Freedom Day 2023 on May 3. “They must all work on securing the release of journalists and political prisoners in Burma. The ICRC must be able to do prison visits and help support independent exile media.”

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