In the 22 months since the Myanmar military junta took power and amid the ensuing torrid civil war, the state of press freedom in the country has continued to worsen to catastrophic levels. After flouting democracy and the results of a genuine election that would have seen their power greatly reduced, military leaders moved quickly to suppress critical and independent voices.
The progress that had been slowly made in Myanmar – due to the hard work of journalist communities, unions, civil society, law reform experts and press freedom organisations – was effectively obliterated with the passing of laws and targeted attacks on media outlets and individual journalists in the wake of the coup.
Today Myanmar shares company with the highest jailers of journalists globally. Incidents of attacks, harassment, intimidation, censorship, detainment and killings of journalists and media workers continue to be reported almost Daily.
Critical setbacks to democracy, freedom of expression, media freedom and fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law have been devastating for Myanmar’s people. The killings and mass atrocities waged against its civilians cannot be understated – more than 2,700 killed to date and over a million displaced. With it, the junta continues to intensify restrictions in the online space and is preparing to adopt a cybersecurity law that would grant the regime the power to ban content, access and intercept user data.
In this climate, journalists were forced to flee, go underground and find other work to survive. Attacks against media workers while reporting, the shutting down of independent media, state censorship, satellite blackouts and confiscation of mobile phones have intensified the challenges for reporting.
Critically, inadequate international sanctions and an ineffective five-point consensus from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) continues to give the junta a pathway to pursue its horrific warfare campaign against its own people.
While the regime is actively contested in the majority of Myanmar’s territory, military air strikes on civilians and heavy ground bombardment are now commonplace as it attempts to combat pro-democracy resistance organisations fighting back against the junta. But Myanmar’s people are bravely fighting on for their right to self-determination.
This report brings together the lived experiences of Burmese journalists and media workers living under the military junta. While very few contributors can be mentioned due to ongoing safety concerns, the IFJ thanks its affiliates and the brave journalists in Myanmar for their contributions and their continued commitment to press freedom under immeasurable Challenges.
In Myanmar, the revolution will not be broadcast. But the courageous work of Myanmar’s journalists is ensuring that the true story of Myanmar gets out to the world so that we can continue to pressure the international community to act and hold its leaders to account.