After Repeated Crackdowns, Myanmar Junta Officially Bans The Irrawaddy

By The Irrawaddy 31 October 2022

Myanmar’s military regime officially ordered the closure of The Irrawaddy and revoked its publication license last week, the latest in a series of lawsuits, raids, arrests and other moves targeting the independent news agency since the coup last year.

The junta-controlled Ministry of Information announced via state media on Saturday that the news outlet has been banned and its license revoked since Wednesday, accusing it of damaging “state security, rule of law and public tranquility” through its reporting.

Since the military takeover in February last year, The Irrawaddy has been at the forefront of reporting on the regime’s bloody crackdowns on peaceful anti-junta protesters and its atrocities against civilians—including daily extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, air strikes on residential areas and torching of civilian properties—while exposing the network of crony businessmen who enjoy shady links with the regime both at home and abroad.

The regime’s Saturday statement was the first to publicly acknowledge its efforts to clamp down on The Irrawaddy, though it has taken several unannounced actions against the news agency since the coup. The Irrawaddy’s website was already banned by the regime inside Myanmar.

In March last year, the military regime sued the news outlet under Article 505 (a) for “disregarding” the armed forces in reporting on the anti-regime protests that were occurring at the time. The police opened a case against The Irrawaddy as a whole rather than individual employees, making it the first news outlet to be sued by the regime after the coup.

On two occasions later that year, The Irrawaddy’s office in downtown Yangon was raided by security forces. No one was arrested during the raids, as The Irrawaddy ceased its operation inside Myanmar following the coup.

Several weeks before officially shutting the news agency down, the regime arrested its publisher, U Thaung Win, who remains in custody. A former photojournalist who once worked for The Irrawaddy, Zaw Zaw, was sentenced to three years in prison under incitement charges in August this year. One staff member was temporarily detained early this year, and the home of one of the news organization’s editors was recently raided.

Founded in Thailand in 1993, The Irrawaddy has been an enemy of successive Myanmar regimes for its reporting on efforts to promote democracy, press freedom and human rights in the country. When Myanmar was opened up, it moved its operations inside the country in 2012 to report on Myanmar’s transition until the coup last year.

The official shutdown followed the regime’s announcement earlier this month that it would take legal action against The Irrawaddy under the Communications Law, News Media Law and other laws for reporting that security forces opened fire on pilgrims at the Golden Rock pagoda in Mon State, failing to parrot its official account of the incident. The junta also said it would sue the BBC Burmese Service on the same charges over the same incident.

It was also learned that the regime’s No. 2 man Soe Win and senior junta advisers were behind the junta’s decision to take legal action against The Irrawaddy and the BBC for their reporting on the fatal shooting. The official ban on The Irrawaddy came a few weeks after the advisers’ calls.

Myanmar has become the world’s second-biggest jailer of journalists since last year’s military takeover, with more than 140 detained. Over 60 remain behind bars and four have died in custody.