Satellite dishes are seen on homes in Yangon, Myanmar, on December 1, 2017. The country's military junta recently banned all satellite television access. (AFP/Ye Aung Thu)

Myanmar military bans all satellite TV

Bangkok, May 5, 2021 – Myanmar’s military junta must revoke its ban on satellite television and repeal all orders that aim to censor independent news reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The state-run broadcaster MRTV announced the ban yesterday, saying that “satellite television is no longer legal” and alleging that foreign broadcasts encouraged people to commit treason and threatened national security, the rule of law, and public order, according to news reports.

Those found using satellite dishes can face one year in prison and a fine of 500,000 kyat ($320), according to those reports. Since early April, authorities have confiscated satellite dishes used to access outside news stations, according to news reports.

“Myanmar’s ban on merely watching satellite TV news shows that its military junta will go to any length to black out independent reporting on its lethal repression,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “This order is a threat to press freedom and should be reversed immediately.”

The ban will affect foreign news channels as well as independent local broadcasters that rely on satellite networks, including the Democratic Voice of Burma and Mizzima, both of which have continued broadcasting via satellite since the government revoked their operating licenses in March, according to an emailed news brief by DVB, which CPJ reviewed.

Mizzima founder Thin Thin Aung and reporters Than Htike Aung and Ba Ba Joe Phyu, as well as DVB reporters Kaung Myat Hlaing, Min Nyo, and Thet Naing Win, are currently among the at least 40 journalists imprisoned in Myanmar, according to preliminary investigations by CPJ and data shared with CPJ by the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners rights group.

Separately, on May 3, authorities charged detained Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a criminal provision that penalizes the dissemination of information that could agitate or cause security forces or state officials to mutiny, news reports said.

Kitazumi, a freelance journalist who runs the Yangon Media Professionals media production company, was arrested at his home in Yangon on April 18 and is being held at Yangon’s Insein Prison, as CPJ documented at the time; he could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

CPJ emailed the Ministry of Information for comment on the satellite ban and Kitazumi’s charges, but did not receive an immediate reply.