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THURSDAY, September 29, 2022
Open letter to Myanmar leaders on abuse of media freedom

Open letter to Myanmar leaders on abuse of media freedom

WEDNESDAY, November 16, 2016
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We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.

We are gravely concerned at the arrest and imprisonment of Eleven Media Group (EMG) senior executives and urge the Myanmar government to intervene to guarantee freedom of expression.

According to reports, EMG chief executive Than Htut Aung and editor-in-chief Wai Phyo have been slapped with legal action over publication of a Myanmar-language article written by the former. The article, originally published in English in Asia News Network newspapers, assessed the state of Myanmar a year after historic elections.
The piece addressed allegations of corruption within the new government that had been circulating in the social media. The Yangon regional government under Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein reacted by calling for the sources of the accusations to be revealed and referring the matter to the Myanmar Press Council.
Eleven Media Group has refused to answer the regional government’s questions and denounced the pressure as an attack on press freedom. It is calling for a full and transparent investigation into the allegations it reported. The media group has pledged full cooperation with any public inquiry formed to examine the allegations.
However, Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein reportedly reacted by suing the executives under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act. Aung and Phyo have been sent to Insein prison, awaiting a court hearing on November 25.
We are appalled that journalists in today’s Myanmar are being sent to jail for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Amid actions that have more in common with Myanmar’s dark past rather than its expected bright future, we must echo international concerns that the detention of the two men raises serious doubts about the National League for Democracy-led government’s commitment to freedom of expression.
We call on Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein to drop the charges and immediately release Than Htut Aung and Wai Phyo from prison. The Chief Minister must accept that his position of public authority subjects him to a higher level of scrutiny and accountability, and that it is the role of the news media in a democracy to do precisely this.  
We urge the NLD and those with the power to influence the direction this young democracy takes to use their influence wisely and to do everything in their capacity to protect the freedom of the press as a critical measure of progress in the country. 
Tomas Brunegard
President of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Marcelo Rech
President of the World Editors Forum