tirsdag 11. juni 2019

Unyielding Attacks on Free Speech in Myanmar Signal a Transition in Peril

In May, Myanmar’s president Win Myint pardoned Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as part of an amnesty of more than 6,000 people. The journalists, who spent over 500 days in prison before their release, were first arrested while uncovering a massacre of 10 Muslim Rohingya men and boys, who were murdered by Buddhist villagers and members of the military. At a time when human rights and democracy are under threat internationally, the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo serves as a reminder that public and private pressurefrom civil society, diplomats and foreign governments, and an influential news outlet like Reuters can still be effective in remedying rights violations.

A closer look, however, at the Reuters case uncovers sobering truths. The reporters were widely understood to have been entrapped by police and subjected to an unfair trial, and Burmese authorities’ decision to pardon them, rather than overturn their conviction, allowed the government to admit no fault. Further, other local journalists and internet users who have not benefited from such a powerful international campaign have increasingly been prosecuted under the country’s anti-free expression laws. At stake are not only free expression and press freedom in Myanmar, but also its young experiment with democracy.