Media to Boycott Govt Press Events Following Letpadan Crackdown

By Nobel Zaw 16 March 2015

RANGOON — The Myanmar Journalist’s Network said at least 10 local media organizations will participate in a temporary boycott of government press events following a violent police crackdown on a student protest last week during which reporters and photographers were also targeted.

Than Htay, the network’s secretary, told The Irrawaddy that they persuaded news organizations to participate in plans to boycott all press events organized by the President’s Office, the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“There are about 10 media organizations that are connected to us when the campaign starts and we will discuss further details,” he said. Some journals and newspapers will print a blank area on the page where they would have normally printed news about the government’s press events as a sign of protest against the crackdown and its aftermath, Than Htay added.

On Monday, the Myanmar Post journal was the first organization to print a blank space, publishing a large black box instead of a front page photo.

Than Htay said the media organizations also planned to boycott the International Press Institute’s World Congress and General Assembly, held in Rangoon on March 27-29. President Thein Sein and Information Minister Ye Htut are scheduled to speak at the institute’s event, titled “On the Path to a Free Media.”

The network said it decided to call for the boycott—the duration of which is yet to be determined—after deliberating the actions of the government during last week’s protest.

On March 10, Pegu Division authorities and a heavy deployment of police launched a brutal crackdown on a student protest in Letpadan, where more than 100 students and supporters were protesting for Education Law reform. Some 127 students were detained and dozens were severely beaten. Authorities have said they plan to file criminal charges against many of them.

During the melee, officers also targeted reporters and photographers, some of who were beaten and temporarily detained. Media organizations said the actions violated the Media Law, which says authorities should guarantee the safety of journalists covering dangerous or volatile situations.

The crackdown has drawn widespread domestic and international condemnation.

In the wake of the violence, the President’s Office, the Information Ministry and the Home Affairs Ministry defended authorities’ actions and cast blame on the protestors for initiating the violence.

The Myanmar Journalist’s Network said on Monday that officials had distorted the truth when describing the events and failed to take responsibility for targeting members of the media.

Ye Htut said in a reaction on his Facebook page that the government was not organizing the International Press Institute’s World Congress and General Assembly and would therefore not be affected by the planned boycott of the event.

He said that it was up to editors in charge of the organizations involved in the boycott to choose whether or not to cover the government’s press statements.