Burma’s leading media bodies have reached a 16-point agreement to protect media workers and ensure that their legal rights are respected.
Held in the Yuzana Hotel in Rangoon on Saturday, the conference was attended by representatives from the Interim Press Council, Myanmar Journalists Union, Myanmar Journalists Network and PEN Myanmar. The four organisations joined forces to form an agreement seeking assurances that guarantee the legal protection of media workers; and informing working reporters about their rights.
Other matters were raised and debated, such as: the appointment of legal advisors at media offices; the issuing of a journalists’ handbook with legal advice; and a pledge to promote ethics within the industry.
The media forum came after a number of journalists were charged, arrested and jailed across the country. Last month, five media workers from Unity Weekly news journal were sentenced to ten years with hard labour under the Official State Secrets Act after they published a report alleging the existence of a chemical weapons factory in Magwe Division.
Veteran journalist Pho Thaukkyar, who testified as a defence witness at the Unity Weekly reporters’ trial, said that journalists in Burma need more than just legal protection as the judicial branch is prone to government interference.
“I studied the [Unity Weekly] case thoroughly and found a letter signed by the director of the President’s Office with instructions to prosecute the defendants under a specific law,” he said. “How could a local judge charge the reporters under a different law when the President’s Office has directed him otherwise? I simply see that as a manipulation of the judicial sector.”