Burma has one of the world’s worst records for jailing journalists during the past year, according to an annual prison census by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The New York-based NGO reported on Wednesday that Burma was among the “top 10 worst jailers of journalists,” with 10 media professionals incarcerated at the time the survey was conducted.
China was the worst offender this year with some 44 journalists in jail. This year’s prison census identified a total of 220 imprisoned journalists across the globe.
CPJ said that President Thein Sein and his administration, which replaced a military regime in early 2011, have been using “draconian and outdated security laws” to punish journalists.
The group pointed out that five of the 10 prisoners were employees of the now-defunct Unity Weekly journal, who were jailed in July on charges under Burma’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act.
Four of the journal’s reporters and the CEO were charged shortly after publishing an investigative report about an alleged chemical weapons facility. The five were initially sentenced to 10 years in jail with hard labor, and they are currently serving reduced 7-year terms.
While journalists have enjoyed additional freedoms since a quasi-civilian government assumed power in 2011–notably the discontinuation of pre-publication censorship in August 2012–some observers have accused the government of backsliding on reforms.
In September, freelance journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, also known as Par Gyi, was killed in the custody of the Burma Army while reporting on armed conflict between the government and ethnic rebel groups in southeastern Burma, deeply scarring the country’s media-friendly image.
France-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders this week published an annual tally revealing that 66 journalists were killed worldwide in 2014.