The assault on Myanmar’s press freedom

(Update 1: Adds byline, re-ledes, alters headline, adds information throughout)

By Eric San Juan

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, May 3 (EFE).- The military coup in Myanmar has reversed a decade of progress in press freedom in the Southeast Asian nation, where at least 43 reporters are held in jail, dozens of others are working clandestinely and local outlets are struggling to stay operational.

The majority of the journalists who remain in custody were arrested during raids on media offices or while they were covering the huge pro-democracy protests that have erupted following the coup led by army general Min Aung Hlaing.

In its latest report, the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF),said: “When the military junta disbanded itself in February 2011, after half a century in power, Myanmar’s journalists hoped they would never again have to fear arrest or imprisonment for criticizing the government or military.

“The coup d’état of 1 February 2021 brought that fragile progress to an abrupt end and set Myanmar’s journalists back ten years.”

In a statement on Friday, the senior representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists in southeast Asia, Shawn Crispin, said: “Myanmar’s military regime has almost overnight become one of the worst jailers of journalists worldwide, with at least 40 members of the press held behind bars.”

At least 40 other journalists have been arrested and since released following the military coup, while another 22 are sought by arrest warrants issued by the military junta.

Many have decided to take refuge in territories controlled by the country’s ethnic guerilla groups to be able to report clandestinely from Myanmar, others have decided to leave the country altogether.

One of those journalists is Mratt Kyaw Thu, who has reported for Efe in Myanmar, and felt obliged to conceal his whereabouts from the authorities after he saw his picture published in a list of journalists wanted by authorities for breaching press laws brought in by the junta following the coup.

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