Update on Journalism and Media in Myanmar

October 3, 2023


For the first half (Jan-Jun) of 2023, Myanmar’s military junta continued the heavy restriction on
media freedom by arresting journalists and revoking media licenses. Specifically, four journalists,
including an editor and a news worker, were arrested, and four journalists were convicted, with
prison sentences ranging from one-and-a-half years to a combined total of 13 years. In six months,
sixteen journalists were released. The license of Ayeyarwady Times was revoked.

Moreover, the State Administration Council (SAC) continues to carry out the same pattern of
lawsuits against journalists. A major percentage (75 % in the first six months of 2023) of arrested
journalists have been charged with and convicted under Section 505A of the Penal Code which is
punishable by up to three years imprisonment.

Four journalists and news workers—three male and one female—were sentenced to prison terms
ranging from one-and-a-half years to ten years. A notable case was the conviction of a journalist
from the Myanmar Pressphoto Agency for 13-year imprisonment, three years under section 505A
of the Penal Code in 2022 and 10 years under section 50(j) of the Counter-Terrorism Law, which
related to funding terrorism in May 2023.

In addition, many journalists inside the country have faced other challenges as the armed conflict
escalates in some regions, including Sagaing, Karenni (Kayah), Kayin, and Chin states. For
instance, journalists in the Karenni state have been facing additional difficulties in news gathering
with the announcement by the local administration groups within the Karenni state that requires
journalists to get permission to conduct news and wear name tags that identify them as journalists.
This has been problematic, considering journalists must hide their identity for safety reasons.

One remarkable issue is that installing CCTV cameras in city streets and roads worries journalists
about their security and increased risk of getting arrested using digital footage as “evidence.” On
top of that, a blackout of the internet in some regions and states has also made news access difficult,
and journalists and residents are experiencing a lack of information. Even though they can only
report news occasionally, the news they reported reached the public late.

In brief, half of the 2023 year ended with 194 journalists arrested, 65 convicted, and 136 released
since the 2021 coup. A total of 56 journalists and news professionals remained behind bars at the
end of June.

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