Detained journalists informed Myanmar of filming plans, Turkish broadcaster says

Above, workers walk past an arch at the entrance of a park in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2017
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Detained journalists informed Myanmar of filming plans, Turkish broadcaster says

YANGON: Turkey’s state broadcaster said a team of journalists filming a documentary in Myanmar had told the government of their plans before they were detained for attempting to fly a drone near the country’s parliament.
The journalists, Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, have been held since Friday in the capital Naypyitaw, along with their Myanmar interpreter Aung Naing Soe and driver Hla Tin.
Police have said they are investigating the four for bringing the drone into Myanmar in violation of an import-export rule that carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.
The two foreign nationals had obtained official journalist visas before they entered Myanmar on October 21, TRT World, the English-language subsidiary of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, said in a statement late on Tuesday.
“They shot in various locations with conventional cameras as well as with a drone, up until October 27,” the broadcaster said. “The Myanmar Information Ministry was previously informed about all filming activities and the filming schedule.”
The broadcaster did not say if the reporters had specifically sought permission to operate a drone near the parliament building. They had interviewed a lawmaker and were about to film the parliament with a drone when they were detained, it said.
Myint Kyaw, an information ministry official in charge of journalist visas, told Reuters that TRT World had only made a broad request to the ministry to film in Yangon and the troubled western state of Rakhine.
“The letter they sent was not their schedule. They didn’t even mention in their letter about visiting Naypyitaw,” he said, adding that the letter did not mention a drone.
Last week’s arrests came amid tension between Turkey and Myanmar over treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine. In early September, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said security operations targeting the Rohingya constituted “genocide,” a charge Myanmar denies.
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled majority-Buddhist Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh since security forces launched a counter-insurgency operation in response to Rohingya militants’ attacks on Aug. 25.
The families of the two Myanmar nationals and a lawyer hired on their behalf have not been allowed to visit them, family members and police said.
On Friday about 25 police raided the Yangon house of their interpreter Aung Naing Soe, a freelance reporter, seizing his computer memory sticks and searching documents.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the immediate and unconditional release of all four.
“These arrests and the raid of Aung Naing Soe’s home speak to the continuing deterioration of conditions for the press in Myanmar,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement on Monday.


Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

Updated 11 December 2018
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Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

  • Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive
  • Pakistan banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots

WASHINGTON: When Canadian columnist Anthony Furey received an email said to be from Twitter’s legal team telling him he may have broken a slew of Pakistani laws, his first instinct was to dismiss it as spam.
But after Googling the relevant sections of Pakistan’s penal code, the Toronto Sun op-ed editor was startled to learn he stood accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad — a crime punishable by death in the Islamic republic — and Twitter later confirmed the correspondence was genuine.
His perceived offense was to post cartoons of the prophet several years ago.
Furey and two prominent critics of extremism in Islam say they are “shocked” to have received notices by the social media giant this past week over alleged violations of Islamabad’s laws, despite having no apparent connection to the South Asian country.
They say the notices amount to an effort to stifle their voices — a charge Twitter denies, arguing the notices came about as a result of “valid requests from an authorized entity,” understood to mean Pakistan, helped users “to take measures to protect their interests,” and the process is not unique to any one country.
But Furey is the third prominent user in the space of days to publicly complain about receiving a message linked to Pakistan.
The other two are Saudi-Canadian activist Ensaf Haidar and Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, a progressive Muslim scholar from Australia who was born in Iran.
Both are outspoken critics of religious extremism and have accused the social media giant of helping to silence progressive ideas within Islam.
Furey, who detailed his experience in a column for his newspaper on Saturday, told AFP: “I’m somewhat alarmed that Twitter would even allow a country to make a complaint like this, as it almost validates their absurd blasphemy laws.”
The tweet in question was a collage of cartoons of Mohammad that he posted four years ago.
“Looking back, I remember I did it right after there had been an Daesh-inspired attack in retaliation over the cartoons,” Furey wrote in his column, adding he had not posted similar material before or since.
Tawhidi meanwhile was sent a similar notice flagging a tweet that called on Australian police to investigate extremism in mosques following a deadly knife attack in Melbourne in November.
The scholar attached the legal notice sent to him by Twitter informing him of possible violations of Pakistani law, and tweeted: “I am not from Pakistan nor am I a Pakistani citizen.
“Pakistan has no authority over what I say. Get out of here.”
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Twitter told AFP: “In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a valid requests from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”
The spokesperson added: “We notify users so that they have the opportunity to review the legal request, and the option to take measures to protect their interests.”
Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive.
It banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots.
Furey told AFP that although he was taken aback by the notice, “I’m at least glad they brought it to my attention that the Pakistan government has their eye on me.”
But he added: “One troubling consequence to all of this is that even people in countries without these blasphemy laws may start to self-censor for fear of the reach foreign governments will have over them in the online world.”