Myan­mar press un­der pres­sure as pa­per bans Rakhine re­ports

Mizzima Business Weekly - - NEWS ROUNDUPS -

A lead­ing English-lan­guage news­pa­per in Myan­mar has sus­pended its re­port­ing on restive Rakhine state, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal memo, as pres­sure mounts on me­dia to cur­tail crit­i­cal cov­er­age of army op­er­a­tions in the area.

The north­ern part of the state, close to the Bangladesh bor­der and home to the re­pressed Mus­lim Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity, has been un­der mil­i­tary lock­down for al­most a month af­ter deadly raids on three po­lice bor­der posts.

The violence has posed the big­gest chal­lenge so far to Aung San Suu Kyi’s young gov­ern­ment and raised ques­tions over the bal­ance of power be­tween the army and the civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Myan­mar Times, the coun­try’s old­est in­de­pen­dent English-lan­guage daily, stopped cov­er­ing the cri­sis af­ter one of its se­nior staff, Fiona McGre­gor, was fired over an ar­ti­cle al­leg­ing troops gang-raped Ro­hingya women.

In an in­ter­nal memo seen by AFP, man­age­ment or­dered ed­i­tors “not to an­a­lyse, com­ment, re­port or have opin­ion pieces on the fol­low­ing sub­jects un­til fur­ther no­tice: Rakhine State; Ro­hingya; and mil­i­tary ac­tions in Rakhine state”.

That prompted staff to post a no­tice in Tues­day’s print edi­tion say­ing the pa­per’s “ed­i­to­rial poli­cies are in the process of be­ing clar­i­fied by man­age­ment.”

“Un­til then you may no­tice some gaps in our cov­er­age.”

The pa­per’s man­age­ment could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

For­eign jour­nal­ists have been banned from the area, but al­le­ga­tions have emerged of troops killing Ro­hingya civil­ians, rap­ing women and torch­ing vil­lages.

The gov­ern­ment has ve­he­mently de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions and the staterun Global New Light of Myan­mar on Tues­day launched a blis­ter­ing at­tack on what it said were “fab­ri­cated” sto­ries.

The me­dia was strictly con­trolled by the junta that ruled the coun­try for half a cen­tury, and while free­doms have in­creased un­der Suu Kyi mon­i­tors say many out­lets still ex­er­cise self-cen­sor­ship.

One Myan­mar Times editor has al­ready re­signed in protest, and sources inside the news­pa­per said sev­eral other staff were con­sid­er­ing leav­ing.

“The pa­per with­stood the pre-pub­li­ca­tion cen­sor­ship of the junta era,” said one of them, re­quest­ing anonymity.

“There are ma­jor con­cerns about back­slid­ing in the com­mend­able gains made on press free­dom in re­cent years.”

McGre­gor’s dis­missal came af­ter pres­i­den­tial spokesman Zaw Htay com­plained in a Face­book post about her ar­ti­cle.

He has de­nied hav­ing a hand in her fir­ing, telling AFP the gov­ern­ment has “no rea­sons to hide”.

The state­less Mus­lim Ro­hingya are ma­ligned by many Myan­mar Bud­dhists who say they are il­le­gal mi­grants from Bangladesh and un­de­serv­ing of cit­i­zen­ship.

Scores have been killed since bouts of re­li­gious violence in Rakhine since 2012, which drove tens of thou­sands into squalid dis­place­ment camps.

(AFP)

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