Journalists Plan Protest against Media Restrictions

By The Irrawaddy 17 August 2012

Journalists in Burma say they plan to protest in front of Rangoon’s City Hall next week to express their growing frustration with the government’s failure to follow through on promises to introduce meaningful media reforms.

At a meeting on Thursday, the Committee for Press Freedom (CPF) discussed the Ministry of Information’s continuing controls over the media and government lawsuits against two journals, The Voice Weekly and Snap Shot News, and decided to stage a protest.

Besides the government’s stalling on promises to abolish censorship, the group said it was also upset with the drafting of a new media law without input from journalists and the formation of a Press Council that continues to limit press freedom.

The group said it has sought permission with the police in Rangoon’s Kyauktada Township to hold the protest on Aug. 21.

“If Burma were a real democratic country, it wouldn’t have censorship,” said CPF spokesperson Zaw Thet Htwe. “The government should not sue media organizations that work ethically or write media laws without consulting journalists. We oppose these kind of restrictions.”

The journalists said they will also wear black shirts and caps with the words “Press Freedom” on them when they cover the trial against The Voice Weekly at a court in Dagon Township on Aug. 23, and again the next day, when Snap Shot News goes to court in Pazundaung Township.

“Our shirts and caps will show that we are united,” said Zaw Thet Htwe.

CPF will also hold a press conference on the evening of Aug. 24 to highlight continuing restrictions on the press in Burma. A protest organizer said the events would be held on behalf of all media workers. “As press freedom relates to all journalists, we will collectively launch the protest,” he said.

CPF represents reporters, editors and writers working inside Burma. Some of its members also belong to the country’s three main journalists’ organizations—the Myanmar Journalists Association, the Myanmar Journalists Network and the Myanmar Journalists Union.

All three groups recently held a joint meeting to discuss the government’s new Press Council regulations, which they say serve only to maintain control over the media. They said the Press Council should be an independent organization, not a body to impose government restrictions on press freedom.