17 embassies call for Myanmar journalists’ release, press freedom

Bangkok, May 3 (EFE).- The embassies of the United States, the European Union and 15 other countries in Myanmar demanded Monday the restitution of press freedom in the country and the immediate release of journalists arrested since the military coup in early February.

“We call for the immediate release of all media workers, the establishment of freedom of information and communication and for the end of Internet restrictions in Myanmar,” the diplomatic missions said a statement, which was also signed by the embassies of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

The embassies said that journalists and media workers have become a “target of repression” in Myanmar, with more than 80 arrested since the coup on Feb. 1, half of whom are still behind bars.

The diplomatic missions also praised “the efforts of those striving to ensure access to accurate information.”

The statement said that media companies in Myanmar have been banned from broadcasting or reporting information, had their licenses revoked and their offices raided.

“Most media outlets have been forced to shut down. Today, no major independent printed media is operating in Myanmar,” it added.

These actions, along with continued internet shutdowns, violate “the right to freedom of opinion and expression outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the embassies stressed.

“We will continue to promote and support free and independent media as an integral dimension of good governance and human development. Press freedom is a right, not just of media professionals, but of each and every one of us,” the statement concluded.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group, 765 people have been killed by security forces since the coup and 4,609 have been arrested, of which 3,555 are still being detained.

The military junta justifies their coup alleging electoral fraud in the November election, which ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide and international observers considered free and fair. EFE


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