Geneva/ Guwahati : Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), the
Switzerland based non-profit organization focusing on press freedom
and safety, while welcoming the recent release of journalist Thein Zaw
from detention in Myanmar (earlier known as Burma) after three weeks,
strongly condemned the ongoing violence and restrictions imposed on
media outlets, internet users in the southeast Asian country.
Associated with Associated Press, Zaw was arrested on 27 February for
covering a protest against the military junta that has grabbed the
power in NayPieTaw on 1 February. He had to observe his 33rd birthday
inside Insein Prison of Yangon, a notorious place for detaining
political prisoners for decades. Even though he was charged with
violating public orders, the court dropped all charges stating that
Zaw was doing his job at the time of arrest.
“PEC is relieved that Thein Zaw has been freed from the prison, but
additional journalists there remain detained. We urge Myanmar to
release all journalists and allow them to report freely and safely on
what is happening inside the country. After all, these acts of
intimidation must stop and freedom of expression must be fully
restored,” said Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC.
Since the first week of February, Myanmar continues to witness a
series of protest demonstrations by common people under the civil
disobedience movement. Called by the jailed National League for
Democracy (NLD) chief Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to oppose the armed forces
(popularly known as Tatmadow), which overthrew a democratically
elected government alleging voting frauds, the movement is spread
across the country.
Armed military personnel have taken lethal attacks on the
demonstrators resulting in the killings of over 450 people and
injuring thousands other in various parts of Myanmar. On Saturday
alone, the military regime under the leadership of Myanmar’s top army
general Min Aung Hlaing, killed at least 114 protestors. Reporters,
photo journalists, camera persons etc are also being targeted by the
military for covering the pubis unrest. Around 40 journalists were
detained and half of them are still behind bars till date.
Amidst the military crackdowns over the peaceful Burmese demonstrators
for a comprehensive multi-party democracy, senior journalist Soe
Myint, who leads Mizzima Media, commented that the military personnel
must go back to their barracks. Participating virtually in a recent
session of Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) on Myanmar
crisis, Myint asserted that it is now a frontal war between the
Tatmadow and common Burmese people (no longer remains as military
verses NLD/ Suu Kyi).
“We apprehended this kind of adverse situation (read military coup)
and were ready to face the consequences. However it is always our duty
to report about our country and citizens irrespective of any
circumstance or its aftermath,” said Myint, who edits both English
and Burmese version of Mizzima newspapers, free-to-air Mizzima TV,
digital daily newspapers, adding that he may be arrested tomorrow by
the military or even get killed by their thugs, but he can not
surrender to the military junta.
Moderated by Gwen Robinson, FCCT president and editor-at-large of
Nikkei Asia, the session comprised speakers Sonny Swe (co-founder and
publisher of Frontier Myanmar), Thiha Saw (veteran
journalist and former editor Myanmar Times), Cape Diamond
(freelancer), Poppy McPherson (Reuters Myanmar bureau-chief), Jonathan
Head (BBC southeast Asia correspondent) etc, where Myint admitted that
he may go for exile once again in the neighbouring countries
(including India) if the situation demands.
“Today, most of the Burmese journalists are working from hideouts to
avoid the assaults from the military personnel. Their offices remain
locked as many media outlets have faced the cancellation of
registrations by the authority,” said Nava Thakuria, PEC’s India
representative with additional responsibility on Myanmar, adding that
the scribes and young social media users have taken the responsibility
to raise voices against the atrocities of military rulers from
undisclosed locations inside and outside of the country, often termed
as the Golden Land of Pagodas.