After mobs assaulted two reporters during riots in Shan state’s Lashio on Wednesday, journalists and editors in Burma called on the government and state security to do more to protect reporters as journalists are continually being targeting during bouts of anti-Muslim violence across the country. Similar assaults occurred during the rioting in Meikhtila in late March, when journalists were threatened with swords and forced to hand over the memory cards from their cameras.
Nyan Hlaing Linn, chief reporter, People’s Era Weekly
“We tried talking directly to the police superintendent, who was inspecting the destruction at Thida Cinema, regarding security assistance and contacts for emergency services but that didn’t work. They couldn’t even provide us a number. Difficult communication with authorities and security forces is a significant issue with this town.”
Myint Kyaw, Myanmar Journalist Network
“In the past, we used to assume armed personnel [security forces] were a threat to reporters, but now it turns out the mobs are too. And we don’t know who is behind them, but we shouldn’t forget they can also potentially harm reporters. Otherwise, situations like [Wednesday] may arise again – it had happened in Meikhtila as well. It is necessary for reporters to beware of potential dangers while chasing news in the riots.”
Kyaw Min Swe, chief editor, the Voice Daily
“It is news media’s job to inform people and the international community what’s happening in this country and it’s not about taking sides. Reporters, especially photojournalists, are to provide news as it takes place. In other countries, reporters in conflict zones are provided security similar to Red Cross workers. However, the reporters for their part should also be aware of potential dangers and avoid them. From what we heard, local security forces [in Lashio] have been unable to protect both civilians and journalists.”
Shawn Crispin, the Committee to Protect Journalist’s Southeast Asia representative
“These types of attacks on journalists are occurring with disturbing frequency in recent riots in Burma. We call on all parties to the violence to cease and desist from harassing journalists and on the relevant authorities to prioritise guaranteeing journalists safety.”
According to reports published on Friday, about 25 individuals have been arrested for helping instigate the violence that erupted in Lashio earlier this week, which has killed one person and displaced hundreds.