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Bangkok, April 7, 2014--A Burmese journalist was sentenced to one year in prison today on charges of "trespassing" and "disturbing an on-duty civil servant" while reporting a news story, according to local reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for the verdict to be overturned on appeal. 

Dear President Thein Sein: We are writing to express our concern about shrinking press freedom in Burma and urge you to veto media legislation that was passed this month by your country's parliament. The bill, which awaits your signature, maintains a censorship role for state authorities and threatens to reverse several of the gains achieved to date under your democratic reform program.

In a clear step backwards for press freedom in Burma, new legislation will give the government censorship powers and the sole authority to issue and revoke news publication licenses. While the legislation enshrines into law broad press freedom guarantees, specific provisions will give the Ministry of Information ultimate power over what news is permissible for publication.

Journalists reporting in Burma continued to face threats and obstacles despite widespread hope for a freer media environment with the transition from military to quasi-civilian rule. While existing restrictive laws perpetuated self-censorship, a new printing and publishing bill aimed to re-impose broad censorship guidelines and grant a newly created registrar sweeping powers to issue and revoke publishing licenses. Journalist groups protested the bill, saying its measures would undercut the press freedom guarantees enshrined in a separate media law being drafted with input from journalists. Both bills were still pending parliamentary approval in late year. In a significant shift marking the end of pre-publication censorship, authorities issued licenses to private newspapers allowing them to publish on a daily basis. Several journalists were threatened or assaulted while covering deadly Buddhist mob attacks on Muslim communities in March. A journalist was sentenced in December to three months in prison for alleged trespassing and defamation while covering a news story. Exile media groups known for their editorial independence faced uncertain futures because of donor funding cuts and rising competition from better-financed, state-linked publications.

Bangkok, February 3, 2014 - Four journalists and a news executive in Burma were detained by police over a newspaper cover story about an alleged secret chemical weapons factory in the country's central region, according to local news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrests and calls for the journalists' immediate and unconditional release. 

Bangkok, December 20, 2013--A Burmese journalist was sentenced to three months in prison on Tuesday on charges of defamation, trespassing, and "using abusive language," according to local news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemns the conviction and calls on the court to reverse the verdict on appeal.

Two murdered journalists for the Africa service of Radio France Internationale, Ghislaine Dupont, 51, and Claude Verlon, 58, might have had a chance. They were abducted on November 2 in Kidal in northern Mali, but the vehicle their captors were driving suddenly broke down, according to news reports.

The media landscape in Burma is more open than ever, as President Thein Sein releases imprisoned journalists and abolishes the former censorship regime. But many threats and obstacles to truly unfettered reporting remain, including restrictive laws held over from the previous military regime. The wider government’s commitment to a more open reporting environment is in doubt. A CPJ special report by Shawn W. Crispin

Villagers protest a copper mine project in the Latpadaung region in March 2013. (Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

Early moves by Thein Sein to ease Internet censorship are viewed as a limited concession to press freedom, since Burma has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. Now, planned foreign investments in mobile infrastructure promise to expand access, but a draft telecommunications law would leave intact many of the vague legal restrictions used to curb online freedoms in the past. By Shawn W. Crispin

Burmese citizens use an Internet café in Rangoon. The country has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. (AFP)

The return of exiled Burmese media groups is one of the clearest signs of the country’s improved reporting environment, but the outlets may struggle to compete as Western donors reduce funding. Furthermore, journalists are worried about losing the editorial independence they enjoyed in exile. By Shawn W. Crispin

A journalist works the radio booth of the Democratic Voice of Burma, a media outlet run by exiles in Oslo, Norway. The outlet has recently established a bureau in Burma. (Reuters/Wojciech Moskwa)
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Killed in Burma

3 journalists killed since 1992

Attacks on the Press 2012

0 Imprisoned in December 2012 after government releases 12 journalists in historic shift.

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