By Ahunt Phone Myat
Ongoing imprisonment of journalists and a ban on media inside Burma’s new parliament has prompted opposition politicians to resubmit a bill demanding a relaxing of press laws.
Such is the extent of limitations on media in Burma that domestic publications are banned from covering debates by politicians and parliamentary representatives. The only footage that emerges from the chamber is taken by CCTV camera
Thein Nyunt, deputy chairman and a Nationalities Parliament representative for the opposition National Democratic Force (NDF), described media as the “fourth pillar of the country” but lamented the tightening noose around reporters’ necks.
“We have witnessed how much effort the [reporters] are putting in to cover the parliamentary sessions,” he said. “As a lawmaker, I am required to do what is worthwhile in the next parliament session.”
He said that he would meet with media workers prior to writing the proposal, which follows a similar submission on 3 February which lawmakers had yet to discuss.
The Burmese regime maintains one of the world’s strictest press environments, and last year ranked 171 out of 175 on the Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index. More than 20 media workers are in jail, some serving sentences of up to 27 years.
The former editor of the Myanmar Times, Ross Dunkley, is due to make his second appearance in court today. While the charges he faces relate to visa violations and the alleged assault of a female sex worker, observers say a power struggle at Burma’s only English-language daily may have been a significant factor in his arrest.
Dunkley has said in the past that some 20 percent of Myanmar Times articles submitted to the government’s censor board, a requirement under Burmese law, are rejected, throwing into sharp relief the problems that publications disobedient to strict instructions face.
Officials have said that the Australian national’s case may take up to three months. He is being held in a cell in Rangoon’s Insein prison.