RANGOON — The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has ranked Burma as the ninth most censored country in the world in a media freedom index that was released on Tuesday.
CPJ’s annual top 10 of countries where the press is most restricted was topped by Eritrea and North Korea, while Burma and Cuba were ranked No. 9 and No. 10, respectively. Other Asian nations in the index are Vietnam, ranked No. 6, and China, placed No. 8.
“Despite an end to more than four decades of pre-publication censorship in 2012, Myanmar’s media remains tightly controlled,” the New York-based organization said.
“The Printers and Publishers Registration Law, enacted in March 2014, bans news that could be considered insulting to religion, disturbing to the rule of law, or harmful to ethnic unity,” CPJ said of one of the laws considered a plank in the government’s approach to controlling Burmese media.
“Publications must be registered under the law, and those found in violation of its vague provisions risk de-registration.”
“National security-related laws, including the colonial-era 1923 Official Secrets Act, are used to threaten and imprison journalists who report on sensitive military matters,” CPJ said of other laws restricting media.
After taking office in 2011, President Thein Sein’s nominally-civilian government lifted a number of draconian, junta-are restrictions on local media, such a pre-publication censorship and a ban on daily newspapers. New media laws that were since introduced, such as the Printers and Publishers Registration Law, received a mixed reaction.
In the last year or so there has been a marked decline in press freedom in Burma. At least 20 journalists have been arrested since 2013 and 12 media workers are currently serving prison sentences.
CPJ highlighted the murder of freelance journalist Aung Kyaw Naing (also known as Par Gyi) at the hands of the Burma Army in early October, the sentencing in July of five journalists to seven-year prison terms for a report on a secret military facility, and the sentencing in October of three Be Mon Te Nay journal reporters and two publishers to two years in prison for republishing a false statement.