Today (Wednesday 10th October 2018), three journalists from Myanmar were arrested and sent to prison for allegedly showing disrespect toward the government.
They are being investigated under penal code section 505b, which states that:
'whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour 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 offence against the State or against the public tranquility; shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.'
According to Amnesty International, this is often used to stifle the work of human rights defenders and more generally the right to freedom of expression.
These three journalists have no right to bail and, if found guilty, could face up to 3 years in prison, simply for doing their jobs! There was a similar incident in August, where two journalists were sentenced to 7 years in prison after they were found guilty of breaching the country's Official Secrets Act. I was sure that Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent years being punished for speaking freely and for standing up for human rights, would have something to say against this. Surely she would not agree for people to be punished for simply speaking the truth?
But instead Aung San Suu Kyi instead defended the prison terms and those who dealt them out, refuting claims that the punishment was unfair.
Amnesty International's Director of Crisis Response has said that:
“Journalists have a vital role to play in holding state officials to account and informing the public. These arrests, which came in response to an article criticising financial management by the Yangon Regional Government, send a worrying message to journalists and anyone who tries to question the government . Rather than detain journalists for doing their job peacefully, the authorities should repeal the oppressive laws being used to create a climate of fear and intimidation.”
I strongly agree with this. If journalists are being punished for informing the public of the facts, surely it is no longer safe for them to do their job. And without journalists, how we will or the rest of the general public find out the truth? If nothing is done to fight against what is happening in Myanmar, freedom of speech and expression will be further compromised and those who need to be heard will stop speaking out.
What do you think? Is it right that these journalists were imprisonned? Have they done anything wrong? Or is the government trying to hide the truth?