Lawyers Network to Offer Advice, Representation for Journalists

By Zarni Mann 3 April 2015

MANDALAY – Lawyers from across Burma have teamed up to create a network offering legal assistance to journalists and media agencies, in response to a surge in suits filed against members of the fourth estate.

The new Lawyers Network for Journalists and Media, officially launched in Rangoon on Wednesday, comprises about 80 lawyers working in various parts of the country, and plans to extend initial services to Irrawaddy, Magwe, Mandalay, Pegu and Rangoon divisions.

“There has been an increase in legal charges against journalists and media agencies, and there is still a lack of legal protection for them,” said Than Zaw Aung, a lawyer and secretary of the network. He said the new association will be there to provide legal advice and, in some cases, representation.

The group also plans to carry out educational discussions for media workers and lawyers to promote awareness of Burma’s legislative framework regarding the media, he said.

A member of Burma’s interim Press Council, Myint Kyaw, welcomed the network, saying that it could offer much-needed services at a time when press freedom is under threat.

“We really need that kind of group,” Myint Kyaw said. “Since legal cases against media professionals, this kind of legal group can help advise them in legal matters or even to write news related to the Media Law.”

Since President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian reformist government assumed power in 2011, at least 20 journalists have been arrested, and one has been killed.

Twelve media are workers are currently serving prison sentences, while several others are awaiting trial. Many were arrested under legal provisions that experts call outdated and unjust, such as colonial-era laws covering state secrecy, defamation and incitement.