Myanmar backslides in media freedom: Freedom House

30 April 2015
Myanmar backslides in media freedom: Freedom House
Media freedom in Myanmar is slipping, according to US-based Freedom House. Photo: Hong Sar

Freedom House have released their 2015 report on media freedom showing yet another decline in press freedoms throughout the world with Myanmar dropping 3 points.
Myanmar is noted as one of the countries with the biggest decrease in restrictions over the four years since the transitional government was imposed in 2010, but is now reversing its trend.
The country was noted worldwide for lessening restrictions on the media allowing independent news coverage, ‘increased’ internet speeds and huge developments in freedom of speech, yet it was noted in the 2015 FH report that the country is beginning to reverse its three year trend of improvements.
The report had this to say about Myanmar:
“…journalists faced an increased threat of arrests, prosecutions, and closures of media outlets. Many journalists were arrested and received prison terms, and foreign journalists encountered harsher visa restrictions.”
The country has come under fire recently for its treatment of the media and press freedoms, last week a report released by the Committee to Protect Journalist noted that Myanmar is the 9th worst country in the world for censorship.
After a year of having journalists beaten and murdered, imprisoned and foreign journalists deported.
Government soldiers killed Par Gyi in October 2014 after he was detained, accused by soldiers for being an ethnic Karen rebel and shot after soldiers claimed he had attempted to steal a weapon.
His body was buried in a jungle and later exhumed where injuries he sustained raised questions, with many in doubt of the soldiers’ claims.
Another popular case was the arrest and imprisonment of the Unity journalists after reporting on a suspected chemical weapons factory in Magwe Division.
On July 10 last year a Pokkoku court sentenced 4 journalists and the CEO, of the now defunct Unity journal, under a colonial-era secrets law that saw each of them sentenced to 10 years hard labour, the sentence was reduced to 7 years in October.
The Presidents office filed the lawsuit and stated on its website that the group had, “disclosed State secrets, trespassing on the restricted area of the factory, taking photographs and the act of abetting.”
This year also saw two Spanish freelance photographers deported after they had been documenting student protestors in the Ayyarwaddy Division; they met with students on a Thursday and were arrested the next day.
The reason for their deportation is because they had arrived on tourist visas and not journalist visas.
The FH report states that recent world standards are at a 10 year low, with over 3 billion people (44% of the world population) living in countries with severe press restrictions, those in the “free” status has ticked over 999 million (14%) also with a large proportion in the “partly free” section with (42%.)