YANGON—Nearly two weeks after seizing power, Myanmar’s military regime has started to put pressure on the country’s media, dictating that journalists not call it a “regime.”
The move was the junta’s first interference in the Southeast Asian country’s private and independent media, which has been regarded as relatively freer and more vibrant than those in neighboring countries.
The military staged a coup on Feb. 1, claiming that the general election in November was stolen. Since then they have arrested the country’s democratically elected leaders, President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Following the coup, hundreds of thousands of people, including civil servants, across the country have taken to the streets to oppose the takeover and called for the release of their leaders.
On Saturday, the military-run Ministry of Information (MOI)’s directives to the country’s Press Council, a media adjudication body which investigates and settles press disputes, went viral online. They urge the media to report “ethically” and “avoid instigating public unrest.”
The ministry stated that some newspapers, weeklies and online media “wrongly” use “regime” for the junta’s governing body, the State Administrative Council (SAC), “which was constitutionally formed by the military.”
“So, journalists and media are informed not to use ‘regime or Junta’ for the SAC, which is acting according to the State of Emergency provisions; and not to instigate public unrest while following media ethics on reporting,” it says.
U Myint Kyaw, secretary of the council, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the MOI statement that went viral online was authentic, adding that the council members will have a meeting about the directives tomorrow.
When asked about the order not to use “regime”, the secretary said “It is their right to freedom of expression” for news outlets when it comes to the choice of word to describe the military government.
He said the order may be the first step in increased restrictions against the media.
“I am very much concerned, as it’s likely that many restrictions are in the pipeline. It is worrisome to what extent there will be space for independent media in the country,” he said.
As of Saturday afternoon, The Irrawaddy had yet to receive the directives.
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