Myanmar jails Turkish broadcast journalists for two months

Aung Naing Soe, a Burmese freelance journalist and interpreter, is hugged by his mother during his first court appearance together with three others after being accused for allegedly flying drones illegally over parliament buildings in Naypyitaw. (AP)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Myanmar jails Turkish broadcast journalists for two months

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar: A Myanmar court jailed two journalists on assignment for Turkey’s state broadcaster, along with their interpreter and driver, for two months on Friday for violating an aircraft law by filming with a drone.
Cameraman Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and reporter Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, were detained on October 27 along with their Myanmar interpreter, Aung Naing Soe, and driver, Hla Tin.
The four had been working on a documentary for TRT World, the English-language subsidiary of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, when they were detained for attempting to fly a drone near parliament in the capital, Naypyitaw.
While none of the four detained is a Turkish national, the case has further strained diplomatic ties in the wake of President Tayyip Erdogan accusing Myanmar’s military of carrying out a “genocide” against the Buddhist-majority country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
Police initially began investigations into whether they had violated an import-export rule that carries a penalty of up to three years in jail, but the judge in the case opted to introduce a fresh charge of contravening the 1934 Burma Aircraft Act, which carries a maximum sentence of three months.
Both the cameraman and reporter pleaded guilty to the lesser charge, and the judge sentenced all four to two months, according to a Reuters reporter at the hearing.
A fresh hearing will be held on November 16 to determine whether charges will be laid for violating the import-export rules.
“The detainees admitted that they committed the crime hoping they would only be fined, so it shocked us when the judge sentenced them to two months,” said defense lawyer Khin Maung Zaw.
The lawyer said he would appeal for a reduction in the sentence to a fine.
Before proceedings began on Friday, Mok told reporters in the court that they were sorry for any disrespect of the Myanmar’s laws, but complained that the legal process had lacked transparency.
“We have no idea what is going on and we are not allowed to speak to our family,” she said.
“And the rules and procedures are not explained to us. We were asked to sign statements that are completely in Burmese that we cannot understand.”
Interpreter Aung Naing Soe told reporters as he was brought to court the four had not been mistreated while in custody, though police had asked about who they had spoken to and about the trips he had made to several of Myanmar’s restive regions, including Rakhine.
Myanmar says the military counter-insurgency clearance operation launched in August was provoked by Rohingya militant attacks on security posts in Rakhine State, and has denied both Erdogan’s accusation and a top UN official’s description of the operation as a “classic case of ethnic cleansing.”
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh since the military operation began.


Al Jazeera English journalists to strike over pay

Updated 25 April 2018
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Al Jazeera English journalists to strike over pay

  • Al Jazeera English journalists based in London have told management they will go on strike next month over pay
  • Journalists at the London office based in the Shard building say they have not received a pay rise in years

LONDON: Al Jazeera English journalists based in London have told management they will go on strike next month over pay.
Staff at the Qatar-owned broadcaster voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action in March following a years-long dispute.
Journalists at the London office based in the Shard building say they have not received a pay rise in years despite increased living costs.
“The talks have been going on since 2015 and members have been losing patience. They voted almost unanimously to go for strike action,” Frances Rafferty, campaigns and communications officer at the National Union of Journalists, told Arab News.
“It’s a last resort, they’ve tried negotiating and they are just completely frustrated, nobody wants to go on strike but they are in a position where it is an option of last resort.”
Al Jazeera English is headquartered in Doha but a significant number of its journalists work out of its London office, which is responsible for European news gathering, current affairs programming and live evening news output.
The strike will take place on May 9 and will be followed by “action short of a strike” in which there will be a “withdrawl of good will,” with staff starting to take their statutory meal breaks in full and refusing to answer telephone calls, emails and messages out of normal hours.
This will begin on May 10, 2018 and continue “indefinitely,” the NUJ said — but it could be suspended “if management is prepared to come back and start meaningful talks.”
Al Jazeera members of the NUJ and the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU) lodged a claim in 2015 over redundancy policy, expenses and overtime. While progress was made in some areas, the management rejected requests to negotiate over pay.
An email sent to Al Jazeera staff on Dec. 29, 2017 signed by the broadcaster’s London HR team said: “Al Jazeera Media Network (which includes Al Jazeera International London) will not be offering standard pay increase or bonus to global staff in 2018 due to global budgetary constraints.”
The email said 17 staff members “whose salaries fell below the minimum market rates” had received pay rises.
Commenting at the time, the Al Jazeera NUJ branch said: “We went into pay talks three years ago expecting to negotiate over percentages. In that time Al Jazeera management has refused to improve on 0 percent — effectively handing all its staff an annual pay cut, once inflation is taken into account. The ballot result shows our members are not prepared to accept this.”
Al Jazeera did not respond to Arab News when approach for comment.