Rangoon Journalists Decry Threats to Peers in Mandalay

By Zarni Mann 9 July 2014

MANDALAY — Rangoon-based journalists are calling on the government to protect reporters who were threatened with violence while covering inter-communal riots in Mandalay last week.

The Myanmar Journalist Network and the Interim Press Council, both based in the former capital, issued statements on Tuesday condemning the intimidation of reporters.

“We strongly urge the government to take action against those who create unrest, and to effectively protect media and journalists who have been threatened,” the journalist network said.

It said reporters in Mandalay had been targeted because the police failed to take action against members of the public who stirred up religious tensions by spreading hate speech.

“Threatening journalists who are fulfilling their duty to inform citizens of events on the ground is a noticeable threat to press freedom and the country’s democratic transition,” the Interim Press Council said in its statement.

Inter-communal violence broke out on July 1 in Mandalay and continued through last week, leaving two people dead and at least 14 others injured. Journalists covering the clashes were threatened by members of the angry mob, including some who attempted to forcibly remove memory cards from cameras.

Social media users meanwhile posted photos of individual reporters online, with accompanying posts calling for the reporters to be beaten as punishment for taking photographs of the riots. Some news bureaus based in Rangoon were blackmailed and threatened by anonymous phone callers urging them not to publish reports of the news.

Journalists in Mandalay also met on Wednesday to discuss their safety and prepare a statement calling for an end to threats against journalists.