YANGON — The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to the “press oppressor awards” along with other world leaders including US President Donald Trump, Turkish President Erdogan and Xi Jinping of China.
CPJ said in a statement that in response to President Trump’s announcement via twitter of his planned “The Most Dishonest & Corrupt Media Awards of the Year,” it is recognizing world leaders who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media.
The New York-based advocacy group announced the winners and runners-up in five categories: Most Thin-skinned, Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws against the Press, Tightest Grip on Media, Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom and Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom.
Myanmar’s de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was named the winner of the “Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom” category. President Andrzej Duda of Poland was named the runner-up of the same category.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was barred from becoming president under the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, has come under strong international censure for failing to criticize the military’s actions against the Rohingya and address accusations of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State.
CPJ said as the Myanmar government granted a presidential pardon soon after it took power to five journalists who had been serving lengthy sentences, hopes for media freedom were high, but most of the legal structure that has long restricted the press remains in place and journalists continue to be imprisoned.
“Security officials obstruct and harass journalists trying to cover what the UN has termed ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ by authorities in the country’s northern Rakhine state,” CPJ said, citing the recent arrest of two Reuters journalists covering the crisis—Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo.
Including the two Reuters journalists, at least 12 journalists including two foreigners were brought to court last year in Myanmar under various repressive laws, with most cases filed by the country’s military.
Despite a civilian government assuming power in Myanmar, the military retains a powerful influence under the Constitution. The army chief appoints three key ministers: Defense, Border Affairs and Home Affairs—which oversees the country’s police and prisons.
Among the 12 journalists who were brought to the court, five were sued by the military, one by a nationalist, one by the chief minister of Tanintharyi region, and the remaining five others by the police.
President Trump won the “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom” award and was also named the runner-up for “Most Thin-skinned” in response to his regular attacks of outlets and individual journalists on Twitter and in speeches.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won two categories, “Most Thin-skinned” and “Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws against the Press” with 46,193 cases of insulting the president or insulting the country, parliament, government or institutions of the judiciary over the course of 2016 against journalists, news outlets and social media users.
China’s President Xi Jinping won the “Tightest Grip on Media,” as China was the second worst jailer of the press globally in 2017, with at least 41 journalists in prison and the use of a combination of traditional censorship and Internet controls to keep the news media in line, CPJ said.