A delegation of Myanmar journalists and activists will be travelling to an international conference in London next week to highlight the importance of media freedom worldwide.
The Global Conference for Media Freedom, jointly organised by the governments of the United Kingdom and Canada, and co-hosted by Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, and Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, will be the world’s first ministerial summit on media freedom. The event aims to improve the safety of journalists, and ease state restrictions on freedom of expression across the globe.
The conference is part an international campaign led by the United Kingdom, in response to a call from the UN Secretary General to ensure better safety and protection for media workers. Figures show 2018 was the worst year on record for violence and abuse against the media, with at least 80 journalists and media workers killed worldwide.
Nine delegates from Myanmar will be attending the summit, including journalists, publishers and civil society. They will share their experience of past and present conditions in Myanmar, and explore solutions for overcoming current challenges. The event will bring together government ministers and officials, international agencies, civil society organisations and journalists from across the world. The Myanmar government has also been invited.
Ahead of the conference, the delegates from Myanmar this week attended a roundtable meeting with the British and Canadian embassies, to discuss ongoing issues around media freedom and freedom of expression in Myanmar. Delegates and embassy officials raised concerns about recent prosecutions brought against journalists, and the shutdown of mobile data services in parts of Rakhine and Chin States.
British Ambassador, Dan Chugg, said: “We are pleased to be helping representatives from Myanmar attend the world’s first ever ministerial summit promoting media freedom. Media freedom is important because it helps to root out corruption and hold people in positions of power to
account. It also helps people have a better understanding about the key issues of the day.
“The UK is committed to supporting media freedom in Myanmar, and across the world. It is our experience that democracies benefit from allowing people to express their opinions freely, and for journalists to carry out their jobs without fear of arrest.”
Canadian Ambassador, Karen MacArthur, said: “Canada values freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and looks forward to co-hosting this important event with the United Kingdom. The conference aims to combat the troubling deterioration in media freedom that is being witnessed around the world. We have worked to ensure that a diversity of stakeholders is able to contribute to the conference, including a delegation from Myanmar.
“We believe that the media plays an essential role in defending and advancing the truth. Journalists must be allowed to report facts freely and independently. However, we are concerned that the capacity to speak truth to power and the freedom with which citizens are able to engage with the truth is increasingly under attack in many parts of the world. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press must be protected as central hallmarks of a strong and healthy democracy.”