Newspapers in Myanmar print black front pages to protest sentencings
Newspapers with a black front page are displayed at a stall in Yangon after a journalist has been handed a one year prison term. REUTERS photoSeveral private newspapers in Myanmar printed black front pages on April 11 to protest the recent arrests and sentencing of journalists, in the latest sign the country’s media climate is worsening.
The black front pages, which included a protest message, in the influential Daily Eleven newspaper, its Sports journal and other papers follow a court decision this week in which a video journalist for Democratic Voice of Burma was sentenced to one year imprisonment for trespassing and obstructing a civil servant while doing a story on education.
“We are publishing the black front page in protest against the sentencing of the DVB reporter Zaw Pe and also to oppose the recent harassment of journalists,” Wai Phyo, chief editor of the Daily Eleven newspaper, told The Associated Press.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it was “outraged” by the imprisonment and called on the local authorities to release him. Myanmar only recently emerged from a half-century of military rule. One of the most visible reforms since a new, nominally civilian government came to power in 2011 was a freeing up of the press. The country ranked 145th out of 180 countries in the latest RSF press freedom index, reflecting “substantial” improvements under the country’s quasi-civilian regime. But media watchdogs say reporters still face intimidation, arrests and criminal charges, and that the media climate appears to be worsening.
In the last four months, at least six journalists and a chief executive of a news journal have been arrested on criminal charges, such as violating the state secrets act or trespassing. Two have been sentenced to jail.