Media


Lawyers representing the four jailed journalists and manager of Unity journal on Monday submitted an appeal against their conviction, one of the lawyers told The Irrawaddy.
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The United States, which has made a priority of improving relations with Myanmar, said on Friday it was “very concerned” by reports that four journalists and a newspaper boss were sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor there this month.
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In this week’s Dateline Irrawaddy show—first aired on DVB—panelists discuss a backsliding of press freedoms in Burma, including the imprisonment of journalists for 10 years with hard labor.
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North Korean officials have extended an informal invitation for Burmese journalists to travel to their country and learn about the situation there, journalists say.
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The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) have denounced the sentencing of four journalists and the CEO of Unity Journal to ten years hard labour for reporting the existence of a secret weapons factory in January.
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The Interim Myanmar Press Council said it has requested a meeting with President Thein Sein to discuss the growing threat to media freedom in Burma, while it has also sent letters to several Lower House committees asking lawmakers to look into the situation.
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Myanmar took a giant step away from democracy last week when a court sentenced five journalists to 10 years in prison with hard labor for reporting news that the government did not like. Hard labor was a common punishment during the decades of military rule. After the military junta dissolved itself in 2011, the government of President Thein Sein abolished censorship, began reforms of the news media and freed journalists. It is deeply disturbing that Myanmar is now meting out punishment to reporters for doing their jobs.
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Police in Rangoon say they are planning to visit newspaper offices to confirm the identities of about 50 journalists who are accused of staging an unauthorized protest against President Thein Sein.
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The recent jailing of five media workers from Unity Weekly and the subsequent threats of legal action against reporters by the Burmese government is hindering the free press in the lead-up to the upcoming 2015 national elections, representatives of the Interim Press Council said on Monday.
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About two dozen journalists who staged a silent demonstration in Burma’s former capital will be charged with violating the Peaceful Assembly Act, as will dozens of other journalists who were not participating in the demonstration but attempted to report on it, according to the police.
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Burma’s first private journalism school in more than half a century opened its doors in Rangoon on Monday morning, poised to prepare aspiring reporters for the country’s turbulent media environment.  Courses began on 14 July for 15 students recruited from both private and state-run media houses.
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Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has condemned the 10-year prison sentences handed down to four local journalists and their boss on Thursday, saying the punishments were disproportionate and that she doubted the government’s commitment to media freedom.
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International condemnation of the Burmese government was swift and scathing in the wake of a Magwe court’s decision on Thursday to sentence four reporters and the CEO of Unity Weekly journal to ten years in prison with hard labour after being convicted of revealing state secrets.
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The Pakokku Township Court sentenced four journalists and the CEO of the Unity journal to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor on Thursday for reporting allegations that a Burmese military facility in Magwe Division was being used to manufacture chemical weapons.
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The sentence, handed down by a court in Pakokku Township, will almost certainly have a chilling effect on efforts by Burmese journalists to investigate the often opaque activities of the military or any other issue the government deems too sensitive.
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Myanmar’s Interim Press Council and the Myanmar Journalists Network have urged the authorities to take action against those using social media to threaten journalists who reported on the communal unrest in Mandalay last week.
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Media workers lambasted Burmese President Thein Sein’s recent radio address about the Mandalay riots, during which he said that members of the press will face legal punishments if they “endanger” national security with their reports.
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Unity journal has closed its office in Rangoon due to financial problems, as its chief executive and four other journalists continue to face charges after reporting on an alleged chemical weapons factory.
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Burma’s Interim Press Council has called for the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Special Branch police to drop their investigation into the financial records of private local print publications.
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The army’s regional command is making inquiries over a lawsuit filed by senior Irrawaddy reporter Kyaw Tun against a military officer after he was attacked while reporting a story on land grabbing.
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