Mandalay Journalists Decry ‘Dark Age’ Tactics Against Press

Myanmar, Burma, The Irrawaddy, Mandalay, press freedom, journalists, protest

Protestors march in Mandalay on Monday, voicing opposition to an electricity rate price hike that went into effect this week. (Photo: Teza Hlaing / The Irrawaddy)

MANDALAY — Journalists in Mandalay are planning to submit a complaint to the divisional government, urging authorities to take action against unidentified individuals whose recent heavy-handed intervention in a protest is believed to have been state-sponsored, or at least tacitly approved by local law enforcement.

On Monday, during a protest against an electricity rate hike in Burma’s second city, journalists on the scene of a confrontation between police and demonstrators were violently pushed away from the gathered crowd by men wearing plainclothes.

Journalists targeted by the men, including a photojournalist from the local Mandalay Khit biweekly journal, were pulled away from the crowd while taking photos of the protesters or otherwise attempting to cover the stand-off.

One plainclothes officer ripped the motorcycle helmet off this Irrawaddy reporter and aggressively used his elbows to push her away from the scene, where protestors were engaged in an argument with police officers who were informing them that they would not be allowed to continue the protest.

As the three organizers of the candle-lit protest returned to their homes, in compliance with the orders of law enforcement, journalists attempting to interview a senior police officer about the authorities’ action against the activists were again assaulted by the men in plainclothes, who tried to sweep them from the area. A uniformed police officer shouted out, calling for the arrest of the journalists for impeding the path of the senior officer, and some even ran at the journalists, holding riot shields and wielding rubber truncheons.

As the journalists complained about the plainclothes men’s brutality, uniformed police officers moved to shield them, and one police officer threatened to take legal action against the journalists for disrupting law enforcers in the execution of their duties.

A group of journalists then went to the divisional police headquarters to file a complaint, where the deputy police superintendent denied that their unit had any plainclothes officers and claimed that the unidentified men had not received protection from uniformed personnel on Monday. The senior officer assured the journalists that the press had a right to cover the news unobstructed.

“These actions, however, totally go against the rights of the journalists, which are codified in the recently enacted Media Law. The police said we have the right to cover the news, but the reality is totally different,” said Min Din, associate secretary of the Mandalay Divisional Journalists Association, the group planning to lodge the complaint against the events of Sunday.

The Media Law was enacted by the government on March 14. In Chapter 3 of the legislation, concerning the rights of the press, it states that journalists shall not be arrested and their equipment shall not be confiscated or destroyed by authorities while they are reporting. Another provision requires that authorities ensure protection from harm for journalists.

Min Din pointed out that journalists, particularly in Mandalay Division, were regularly threatened by plainclothes men who were carrying out their campaign against the press with impunity.

“Almost every time, those people have slapped down the cameras and pretended the crowd is pushing them. And sometimes they have tried to block coverage of the scene with their hands, head and bodies,” he said.

“They have also carried cameras, pretending they are journalists. When there is a conflict, they have shouted, urging police to arrest the protesters and activists. In these cases, people might mistakenly think that the journalists are biased and are helping the police to arrest the activists,” he added.

Mandalay-based journalists worry that authorities’ attitude toward press freedom is reverting to the stance adopted by law enforcers under the former military regime.

“It is nothing different from the last three to five years, in which we have had to struggle for freedom of the press. The plainclothes men usually take pictures of us, try to interfere with us in covering the news, as it was back three years ago. We are just afraid the dark era for press freedom will return again,” said Kyaw Zay Win, a Mandalay-based video journalist.

6 Responses to Mandalay Journalists Decry ‘Dark Age’ Tactics Against Press

  1. I cheer Mandalay journalists but not some Mandalay writers because see the below.

    Norman Hla Wednesday, April 2, 2014 – 5:10 pm

    Some Mandalay writers should go out to help those illegal protestors in the aspect of high electricity fee rate instead of blaming Chinese in the aspect of buying lands and properties in Mandalay. At the same time, those writers should ask or warn the Chinese not to buy lands and properties in Mandalay due to the hot, air/mosquito-polluted expansive Mandalay city’s lands and properties. Then, DASSK is not be kept busy by those naive Mandalay writers who want to stir up the racial discrimination with the slogan of nationalism, Buddhisnization and bamanization.
    See the recent notorious scenario to lean how the Chinese ordinary people are victims of missing flight.
    Pilot (some Mandalay writers) and co-pilot (USDP) are fighting each other in the flight cockpit in the aspect of political issue (i.e one opposition leader is jailed for sodomy alleged undemocratically ) in their own country.
    Then, one was killed by other in the cockpit. Then, the killer is nowhere to go so try to enjoy flying with high speed to end his life in the deadly ocean ( try to cover the all killing clues) instead of receiving punishment of life imprisonment or death penalty in their country in Murder charge. Co-pilot is very much related to the high ranging government. So, the government misled the information that co-pilot acts properly such as his last words are ” Everything is all right and good night”. Today, it is not the case or words from co-pilot, announced by government when Chinese side wants to listen the transcript of the conversation between flight and flight control tower.
    Unfortunately, the majority of the passengers in the flight are ordinary Chinese. Please, DASSK without military power and we, ordinary local Chinese do not want to be involved in your writers’ immature political issue ( not want to be passengers, victims in this kind of missing flight), first stirred by fox than shwe (racial/religious slogan) in the killing local Muslim with the help of Buddhisnization psy wirathu.
    Around the world, particularly, rich Chinese are buying lands and properties in UK, US, Canada and Australia and those are not big issues in those countries in the slogan of equal and fair opportunity as well as gaining benefit of multi-culturalism. Racial discrimination is serious crime in Australia.
    Those naive writers should go to abroad with the help of DASSK to learn what are the people in Thailandnese who accept 100% blood Thanlandnese beautiful Yingluck as their democratically elected PM without any racial discrimination.
    How many illegal Burmese migrants are now working in Thailand for survival. Also learn how many Thailandnese forget about the Bama kings’ invasion to them in history as well. Then, those naive Mandalay writers will know how to shout their voice to pay more attention to abolish 2008 Nargic constitution (bama military favored) instead of blar, blar in Burmese.
    Thein sein, not DASSK should consider seriously how to re-start the building of power stations in Kachin areas with the sole decision of Kachin people or in Mandalay with the help of rich Chinese if U pie and than shwe do not want to vomit their stolen money (Chinese side payment) to ordinary Burmese from their Singapore banks.

  2. i told you. policemen are doing nothing but getting paid. in mandalay, regime might be behind those thugs who attacked reporters. it is new to us. regime from 1962 had done, is doing, and will keep doing this dirty business. the future of regime is full of grease.

  3. Police standing and watching the thugs who assaulted the reporters without doing anything is tasteless and awful. Why did the police go to that place? If the Thein Sein regime is behind the incident, Thein Sein must be impeached.

  4. Mandalay is the center for thieves and robbers. I never trust people in Mandalay. Gig-saw paddlers and Taxi drivers always cheat and steal properties of their customers. If you trust them, you are a dead dog. You will get stripped off and left you empty handed there. People in Yangon are polite and honest compare to people from Mandalay. Beware of dogs while you are in Mandalay. That’s why they got pushed away to suburb by the newly immigrated Chinese. Thieves and thugs will never prosper. By attacking reporters, they are proving themselves as thugs.

  5. People may have sweet dreams and hope. Just do not wake up to find that it is status quo. Norman may have to repeat physiology and pathology.

  6. A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.

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