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.”


CNN awaits judge’s decision on White House ban on reporter

Updated 15 November 2018
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CNN awaits judge’s decision on White House ban on reporter

WASHINGTON: A US federal judge was poised to rule Thursday on a lawsuit brought by CNN with broad backing from other US media to compel the White House to lift a ban imposed on a reporter after he engaged US President Donald Trump in a heated exchange at a news conference.
CNN lawyers argued in court Wednesday that the White House violated correspondent Jim Acosta’s First Amendment right to free speech in revoking his credentials, and asked the court to order that they be reinstated.
The US Justice Department’s lawyer, James Burnham, countered that Acosta had “disrupted” last week’s news conference. Burnham insisted “there is no First Amendment right to access the White House.”
Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, said he would hand down a decision at 3:00 p.m. (1500) GMT.
Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, angered Trump when he persisted in questioning the president at a November 7 news conference, ignoring demands he yield the microphone.
From the podium, Trump called Acosta — a frequent target of his ire — a “rude, terrible person.”
Hours later the White House revoked Acosta’s security pass, initially accusing him of “placing his hands” on a female press aide who tried to take the microphone away.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a video to support the claim, but analysts said the footage was sped up to make it appear Acosta had manhandled the aide.
CNN’s suit, which the White House dismissed as “grandstanding,” drew support from major US news organizations, including Fox News, the Rupert Murdoch-owned television news network known for its friendly coverage of Trump and other conservatives.
In a “friend of court” brief, the White House Correspondents Association urged the court to find in favor of CNN, warning that to do otherwise would set a dangerous legal precedent.
“The White House is the People’s House, and the First Amendment does not permit the President to pick and choose which journalist do — and do not — cover him there.”
Others backing the CNN arguments in court included the Associated Press, Bloomberg, First Look Media Works, Gannett, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, NBC News, The New York Times, Politico, Press Freedom Defense Fund, EW Scripps Company, USA Today and The Washington Post.