In the week that the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the country in the top ten for imprisoning journalists for the first time since the military relinquished direct control in 2011, journalist Han Thar told The Anadolu Agency: “Since 2012, it seems that journalists have more freedom but that is fake because we still face threats from the government.”
Thar, who works for the Yangon-based Kamayut Media, added: “When we enter government offices or ministries, we don’t get the information we need. The regime still directly and indirectly threatens journalists who try to find the facts.”
The committee found at least 10 journalists imprisoned in Myanmar, all on anti-state charges, putting the country in eighth place globally.
“Rather than reforming draconian and outdated security laws, President Thein Sein’s government is using the laws to imprison journalists,” the committee’s report said.
Myanmar did not have any journalists in jail in 2013.
The report noted that five staff at the now-defunct Unity journal were jailed in July for reporting on an alleged chemical weapons facility. Four reporters and the paper’s chief executive have been sentenced to seven years in jail.
In October, five members of another now-gone publication, Bi Mon Te Nay, were sentenced to two years in prison for publishing a front page story based on a claim that National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi had formed an interim government.
In May, an Australian journalist working for news website the Democratic Voice of Burma was deported for reporting on a demonstration calling for press freedom.
In August 2012 the government abolished the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, which was responsible for censoring journals before publication. The move was part of a package of reforms introduced by Sein’s civilian government.
Speaking at a forum in Yangon recently, Ma Thida, a prominent local journalist who was jailed under the previous military regime, said that although journalists are freer than in the past, prosecution over published articles indicated the absence of a free media.
China was ranked the world’s worst jailer of journalists globally, with 44 in jail. The committee found that, around the world, 220 journalists were in jail on Dec. 1.
In its World Press Freedom Index 2014, Reporters without Borders ranked Myanmar 145th out of 180 countries on press freedom.