Twenty-one media workers in Irrawaddy Division staged a mass prayer in the capital Bassein [Pathein] as a symbolic protest to call for the recent sentences and charges against journalists to be dropped by the government.
Myo Min Paing, a Bassein-based news correspondent, said that journalists from Irrawaddy’s towns of Bassein, Myaungmya, Kyonpyaw, Myanaung and Henzada gathered at Shwemudaw Pagoda in the capital to pray for the five Unity Weekly news journal staff who were recently sentenced to ten years in prison with hard labour for reporting on an alleged chemical weapons factory in Magwe Division.
They also prayed for the staff of Bi-Mon Te Nay Weekly (literally, Bi-Noon Day Sun), who were recently charged with causing public alarm under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act after they falsely reported that opposition National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic group leaders will be installed in an interim government, he said.
“We prayed for an end of media oppression and the immediate release of jailed reporters, and then we released a statement addressing President Thein Sein’s government,” Myo Min Paing said.
The four-point statement highlighted the media’s role to ensure that the judicial, executive and legislative branches are functioning well; criticised the sentencing of the Unity Weekly journalists as being “extremely harsh” and accused the government of stymying press freedom with its charges against the Bi-Mon Te Nay staff.