UN: Myanmar waging ‘campaign against journalists’

Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo, center, is escorted by polices upon arrival at the court Monday, Sept. 3, 2018, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP/Thein Zaw)
Updated 11 September 2018
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UN: Myanmar waging ‘campaign against journalists’

  • The rights office pointed to the “particularly outrageous” and high-profile example of the conviction of Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone
  • Around 700,000 of the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority were driven into Bangladesh by a Myanmar army-led crackdown

GENEVA: Myanmar, facing international outrage over the jailing of Reuters journalists for their reporting on a massacre of Rohingya Muslims, is conducting a “political campaign” against independent journalism, the UN said Tuesday.
A fresh report from the UN rights office decried “the instrumentalization of the law and of the courts by the government and military in what constitutes a political campaign against independent journalism.”
It slammed the “failure of the judiciary to uphold the fair trial rights of those targeted.”
The rights office pointed to the “particularly outrageous” and high-profile example of the conviction of Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, also known as Thet Oo Maung.
Last week, a judge jailed the two — both Myanmar nationals — for seven years under a draconian state secrets act over their reporting of the Rohingya crisis.
Around 700,000 of the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority were driven into Bangladesh by a Myanmar army-led crackdown in August last year.
The UN report said there were many other examples of detentions and prosecutions of journalists and their sources, indicating “wider trends of suppression of freedom of expression.”
According to the report, laws on telecommunications, official secrets, unlawful association, electronic transactions, import-export and aircraft have been used against journalists in a number of cases.
It pointed to one case, where three journalists were arrested in June 2017 after covering a “drug burning” ceremony in connection with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The event took place in area under the control of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Shan state.
Even though the journalists were covering events unrelated to the armed conflict, they were charged under the so-called unlawful association act.
The report pointed out that the act is “routinely used to allege that any contact with an ethnic armed group is tantamount to a criminal offense.”
The report said that in Myanmar it has become “impossible for journalists to do their job without fear or favor.”
UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned in a statement that the situation was “hardly conducive to a democratic transition” in Myanmar.
She called on authorities in the country to “cease the legal and judicial harassment of journalists and to initiate a review of ill-defined laws that facilitate attacks on the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression.”


Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

Updated 21 July 2019
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Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

  • Twitter said the accounts harassed people linked to the Baha’i faith
  • The Baha’i faith is a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran

WASHINGTON: A day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said Saturday it acted after harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith.
Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure.
But Twitter cited what it said was the coordinated and targeted harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran.
It did not name the suspended accounts, and said it was continuing to investigate the matter.
“Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules,” read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets’ accounts.
Mehr news agency, which is close to moderate conservatives in Iran, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked late Friday following its reports on the seizure of the tanker Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it seized the Swedish-owned tanker for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil.
Mehr’s Farsi-language Twitter page was inaccessible on Saturday, along with those of the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists’ Club.
“Since last night and after seizure of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz the account of the Young Journalists’ Club and some other users have been suspended,” the YJC said on its website.
Mehr noted that its Mehr Diplomacy account, which publishes analysis and interviews on foreign policy, was also offline.
Another account taken down belonged to Ali Akbar Raefipoor, a hard-line public speaker.
None of the owners of the suspended accounts said they had been given any reason for the move by Twitter.
The micro-blogging platform is banned in Iran, but many officials still have accounts and people access them by using a virtual private network, or VPN, to bypass censorship.