Myanmar journalists start “Journalism is not a Crime” campaign online
Ei Ei Toe Lwin the Myanmar Times Fri, Apr 3, 2020
Ko Nay Myo Lin (centre) is escorted by police during his arrest in Mandalay. Photo – Supplied
Myanmar journalists on Friday started a campaign in Facebook to denounce the arrest and filing of criminal charges against three senior colleagues who interviewed a spokesperson of a local ethnic armed group the government recently declared as a terrorist organisation.
The ‘Journalism is not a Crime account’ was launched to seek the release of the three journalists who are now languishing in different jails across the country after they were charged for violating the country’s anti-terrorism organisation.
About 100 journalists joined the group and invited other colleagues to join the Facebook page, ‘Journalist is not a crime’, and hashtag (#JournalismNotCimeMM).
U Nay Myo Lin, editor-in-chief of the Mandalay-based Voice of Myanmar, U Khaing Myat Kyaw , editor-in-chief of the Rakhine-based news journal “Nairnjara” and U Hlaing Thit Zin Wai , editor of online news portal Yangon Khit Thit Media were charged earlier this week for interviewing Arakan Army spokesperson Khing Thu Kha, after the group was declared unlawful and terrorist organization on March 23.
Under the current anti-terrorism law, it is illegal for to communicate or provide support to organizations, the government designated as terrorist organizations.
Ma Darli Thae Ko, one of the journalists who joined the group, said the online campaign was launched as the reporters cannot hold mass gatherings amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic facing the country.
‘’Because of Covid-19, we cannot do any public activities, such as peaceful protest,” she said That is why we decided to set up Facebook page to share our activities and information. We hope other people will support us and join our activities.”
“We, journalists, strongly reject the legal action against journalists and media,” she added.
On Thursday, The Myanmar Journalist Group condemned the filing of criminal charges against the three editors and called on the government to drop the cases and release them immediately.
“We, journalists, have decided to organise online and off-line campaigns in careful consideration of preventive measures against virus infection, to defend and protect the freedom of journalists who are detained and prosecuted under criminal laws,” the statement said.
The group plans to collect signatures and send them to the President, State Counsellor, Hluttaw and Commander in Chief denouncing the use of criminal laws against journalists and media, when there is an existing News Media Law enacted to resolve complaints and disputes related to news and media.
It urged all journalists to wear t-shirt with printed with “Journalism is not a crime” whenever they go out on news coverage.
Local and international human right groups released statements calling on the government to drop immediately all charges against the three journalists.
U Kyaw Swar Min, secretary of the Myanmar Press Council, said the council submitted a request letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs to negotiate the charges against these three media agencies.