International community must demand freedom of press in Myanmar

May Khin

The United States should stand in solidarity with journalists currently being detained in Myanmar’s prisons and demand their release.

The United Nations should step up with immediate and effective actions for the release of the journalists, since the General Assembly did not bring any immediate actions.

As of this year, the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks Myanmar as 176 out of 180.

In 2021, Myanmar ranked 140, so this is certainly a step backwards in freedom of press and voice of democracy.

In comparison, the United States ranked 42 out of 180 on the Press Freedom Index in 2022.

BBC journalist Htet Htet Khine was sentenced to three years of doing labor in a Myanmar prison. She was convicted of incitement under Section 505(a) of the Myanmar penal code.

According to the Advocates of Justice and Human Rights, Section 505(b) penalizes making, publishing or circulating “any statement, rumor or report, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offense against the State or against the public tranquility.”

Khine was arrested alongside VOA Burmese contributor, Sithu Aung Myint.

Myint is currently detained in Insein prison under the charges of spreading false news and incitement.

The Frontier Myanmar recently published the first account of Frontier journalist Ye Mon’s experience being detained by authorities in Myanmar after covering a February 2021 coup.

Mon recounts one instance of prison guards ordering him to rape a woman in a cell. Mon refused to obey and the prison guards sexually assaulted him to punish him for disobeying their orders.

The Myanmar military frequently resorts to sexual violence as a form of torture to get information out of their prisoners.

International media should step up their coverage of Myanmar to better reflect the state of affairs within the country

Most of the mainstream media are reporting from Bangkok, Thailand or nearby areas since press visas are limited and restricted at the time.

However, coverage of Myanmar is often restricted to protests, demonstrations, the future of Myanmar’s economy and sanctions.

The coverage should highlight the accurate data of people killed, imprisoned and arrested from the demonstrations.

Over 4,700 anti-coup protests took place to demonstrate people’s opposition to the Myanmar junta – a military group ruling Myanmar since the February 2021 coup.

The Myanmar military murdered 2,276 individuals during the Spring Revolution. Of the 2,276 killed, 178 were under the age of 18.

The economic sanctions placed by the United States and other supporting countries on Myanmar are one effective means of indicating opposition to the Myanmar military.

On Sep. 17, the Myanmar community in New York held a credential campaign for Kyaw Moe Tun to be instated as the Myanmar ambassador to the United Nations.

This is the voice of Myanmar people asking for legitimate accreditation and democracy.

The U.N. should interfere within Myanmar politics and provide effective solutions to recognize the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG) as its legitimate government.

The United States should provide support to Myanmar and come together with other international communities to fight for freedom of press and democracy in Myanmar.

Mainstream media should work on getting news stories and data from battlegrounds and cover stories which reflect the circumstances of the Myanmar people fleeing their homes.

The media should illustrate the real problems the people are facing amid the war.

The U.N. Security Council is proposing a Britishdraftedresolution that demands an end to all violence in Myanmar, an end to transfer of arms to Myanmar and to threaten U.N. sanctions.

The purpose of the resolution is to implement ASEAN peace plan and for the release of political prisoners and the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, the resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes from Russia, China, the U.S., France or Britain.

It will be extremely difficult for the resolution to be implemented since China and Russia are primarily supporting the Myanmar junta.

The United Nations Accreditation Committee will not hold a meeting until December to decide who will be the official U.N. ambassador of Myanmar.

The United States and the United Nations should work together to come up with immediate actions for the release of journalists and for freedom of press in Myanmar.