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Iran Press TV

EU urges Myanmar to protect free speech amid crackdown on journalists

Iran Press TV

Mon Jul 3, 2017 4:58PM

The European Union has urged Myanmar to protect journalists from "intimidation, arrest or prosecution" after a number of journalists were detained across the Southeast Asian country.

The EU said in a statement on Monday that the right to freedom of opinion and expression was a human right guaranteed to all.

"It constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society," the statement read.

"We therefore call on the government of Myanmar to provide the necessary legal protection for journalists to work in a free and enabling environment without fear of intimidation, arrest or prosecution," it added.

The EU says that the arrest and prosecution of journalists has reached "a worrying number" in recent months.

The developments come after several cases of reporters running into trouble with the law, including three detained by the army last week. The reporters were accused of breaching the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act.

The Myanmar military earlier said the three reporters had communicated with a group "currently opposing the country's rule of law using arms."

The reporters had covered the burning of drugs by the rebel Ta'ang National Liberation Army to mark the International Day Against Drug Abuse.

The three prominent journalists are in prison in the northeastern town of Hsipaw. The first hearing in their case is on July 11.

In one such case, Kyaw Min Swe, an editor at the Voice daily, was detained last month over an article mocking the military.

Most of the cases against journalists are for suspected violations of a broadly worded telecommunications law decried by rights monitors as a violation of free speech.

Reporters protesting the threat to press freedom say that military intelligence agents have taken their pictures.

They say the developments are a reminder of days of harsh military rule when no opposition was tolerated.

Journalists and rights groups say that the gains made in press freedom since the end of decades of strict military rule risk being reversed.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has not herself commented on the three or on other cases of reporters running afoul of the law.

Reacting to the developments, Suu Kyi's spokesman, Zaw Htay, said that everyone "should be treated according to the law."

This comes as Myanmar has long faced international criticism for its treatment of the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and live in conditions rights groups have compared to those of the Blacks under the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

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