World Association of News Publishers

Protest Campaign - Myanmar, 14 March 2013

Protest Campaign - Myanmar, 14 March 2013

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His Excellency President Thein Sein
People’s Republic of the Union of Myanmar


Thursday 14 March 2013

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at several developments that may adversely impact on press freedom in your country.

According to reports, the Ministry of Information published a draft press bill in a state-run newspaper on February 27. There had been no consultation with private media, freedom of expression organisations or even the Myanmar Press Council in drafting the bill, which contains a number of restrictive and regressive provisions.

We are particularly concerned at five 'restrictions' contained in Chapter 3 which prohibit printing or publishing articles concerning: incitement to racial and religious hatred; undermining law and order or fuelling riots; immoral sexual matters; supporting violence and crime, gambling and drugs; and criticising the constitution or current laws. The draft legislation also requires publishers to register their business with an officer appointed by the Ministry, who has the right to suspend or cancel the publication's permit. The bill also provides for jail terms of up to six months for reporters working without valid accreditation.

We are concerned that the bill as currently drafted would clearly violate the right to free publication guaranteed by Article 354 (A) of the Constitution, as well as numerous international agreements, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We are also concerned about a decision by Myanmar's Hluttaw (Parliament) on 8 February to investigate a blogger for writing a critical article that ‘dishonoured’ the legislature. A commission was appointed to determine the identity of and take action against the blogger who wrote a 17 January 2013 article entitled, “Is the Hluttaw above the law?” under the pseudonym Dr Sate Phwar. The article, which was published on Dr Sate Phwar’s blog Voice of Myanmar, criticises recent attempts by the Parliament to amend the Constitutional Tribunal Law, saying that such moves were intended to gain more control over the judiciary and were thus in breach of the 2008 Constitution.

Finally, we are concerned at reports that the Gmail accounts of at least 12 reporters covering Myanmar may have been hacked. Last month the journalists, based in Myanmar and other parts of Southeast Asia, received messages from Google saying that they might have been the targets of "state-sponsored attackers". While we welcome the government's denial that it was involved, we are concerned at what appear to be systematic attempts to compromise the online security of journalists covering your country.

Your government is to be congratulated for making significant advances in media reform and relaxing censorship laws in recent months. However, the instances outlined above demonstrate that much more needs to be done to secure freedom of expression in your country. We respectfully call on you to address each of the issues above and to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future Myanmar fully respects international standards of free expression.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience and we would welcome opening a dialogue with your government on these important issues.


Yours sincerely,


Jacob Mathew
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Erik Bjerager
World Editors Forum


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2013-03-14 13:10

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...