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Being a journalist is a ticket to arrest, says Myanmar editors

Bangkok-For about 20 years, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) broadcast uncensored news from asylum to Myanmar. When the civilian government came to power in 2011, an independent outlet was finally able to open a newsroom in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.

But that important step towards media freedom retreated in February, when the military seized power and soon turned to national press.

Published by the San Sai District Administration Office in Thailand, this photo shows the room where a journalist working for the democratic voice of Burma was arrested on May 9, 2021.

The internet was cut, dozens of journalists were imprisoned, and more than 10 media outlets, including DVB, were revoked.

“We are completely illegal in this country. The military has not only revoked our license, but also made it illegal to create (including) any kind of media product on Facebook, YouTube and social media. “DVB said. Editor-in-chief Aye Chan Naing told VOA from a private location.

“In fact, right after the coup, an hour after the coup, they unplugged our channel,” he said.

More than five months have passed since Myanmar’s military coup triggered the country’s third largest uprising in 30 years. The country is at stake, with hundreds of opposition to democratization killed and thousands more detained.

In the crackdown on opposition, the military junta (formally the State Administration Council) focused on targeting Myanmar’s independent media.

Since February 1, at least 89 journalists have been arrested, 36 of whom are still in custody. This is due to the Detained Journalist Information Facebook Group and Reporting ASEAN, an organization that records crackdowns and unreported articles from Asia.

Last week, 12 journalists were released as part of a broad release of about 2,300 people. The Associated Press quoted Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Htun, Deputy Minister of Information, saying that the liberated people participated in the protest but not the violence.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Intelligence also issued a statement claiming that the State Administration Council is in control in the event of an emergency.

Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for Myanmar's military junta, spoke at a press conference of the Ministry of Information held in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on March 23, 2021. Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for Myanmar’s military junta, spoke at a press conference of the Ministry of Information held in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on March 23, 2021.

Conflict country

The February military takeover marked the end of a short decade of civilian government.

Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar gained independence from Britain, but was under military control from 1962 to 2011.

In 1988, the 8888 uprising against the military regime was hit by violence. An estimated 3,000 people were killed and others “disappeared,” according to rights groups, including Amnesty International.

Founded four years later in 1992, DVB was based in Oslo, Norway and Chiang Mai, Thailand, but initially transmitted radio programs nationwide.

By 2005, DVB had broadcast satellite television, and after democratic reforms in 2011, the media in 2012 moved to Yangon.

Under the rule of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, DVB began broadcasting on terrestrial digital television in 2018.

In other words, until this year’s coup.

According to Aye Chan Naing, it is now too risky for DVB journalists to work from the company’s office to crack down on the military.

“We are now fairly decentralized, in different groups and in different places, but we are coordinating with each other online. That is the future of our future work. There is no headquarters or office. .. The most important thing is (what you need is a safe place to operate, “he said.

He said the broadcaster is working with hundreds of citizen journalists, some of whom are on the run.

“We still have a lot of contacts in the country and are heavily dependent on citizen journalists, freelancers and stringers. Decentralized for security purposes and many people work individually rather than as a group. Because they can be kept almost low, they have an almost national profile. “

Aye Chan Naing said his reporter learned to be cautious using multiple cell phones and without carrying a media identity card.

“We still get a lot of information every day. Looking at the February and March uprisings during the crackdown on mobile phones and the internet, it seems that the entire county has become a journalist,” said Aye Chan Naing. I am.

“Our main job is to verify the story,” he added. “That’s right. We have our own source, so we can double-check or triple-check.”

There is always a risk of arrest on the DVB team. Three of the broadcaster’s journalists were convicted and sentenced to two to three years in prison under Article 505 (a) of the Myanmar Criminal Code. The other three have been detained before the trial in Insein Prison, Yangon.

Section 505 (a) penalizes sedition and has been regularly cited in the arrests of protesters and journalists since the coup.

Nathan Maung was arrested from his office in Kamayut Media in March, weeks after Myanmar troops seized power in a coup. (Photo provided by Nathan Maung) Nathan Maung was arrested from his office in Kamayut Media in March, weeks after Myanmar troops seized power in a coup. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Maung)

But for thousands of people detained under the law, prisons are not the only concern. Recently released journalist. Nathan Maun of America, VOA is described as being beaten and tortured.

Others said they were housed in a crowded cell with no access to family or outside information.

Aye Chan Naing said at least two of his journalists were beaten during the interrogation.

“It’s dangerous to be arrested during an interrogation,” said Ai Chan Nine. “It’s a lot less trouble, but of course the prison condition is really bad,” he added, after they were charged.

A spokesperson for the Myanmar Military Council did not respond to VOA’s message asking for comment.

In a statement to VOA earlier this month, spokespersons did not directly answer questions about allegations of torture and beatings, but said authorities were crossing the suspect “according to rules and regulations.”

Due to the risk, some journalists fled. But that can also cause legal problems.

Thai officials detained three senior DVB reporters for illegal entry in May. Last month, reporters were allowed to evacuate abroad. Aye Chan Naing did not reveal where they lived.

As media crackdowns continue, Aye Chan Naing acknowledged the need to reduce the number of employees working at DVB.

“Being an independent journalist is already a ticket to being arrested,” he said. “(They) are already at a fairly high risk and can easily be arrested.”

Aye Chan Naing added that the military believed that they were “fooled by their own publicity” and that press freedom was hit hard.

“They want to be more like North Korea. They want (people) to be unaware of what’s going on and (people) to trust what they say,” he said. “Despite the difficulties, DVB” operates and reports. “

Being a journalist is a ticket to arrest, says Myanmar editors

Source link Being a journalist is a ticket to arrest, says Myanmar editors

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