Journalists in Burma are being arrested under criminal charges and given long prison sentences. New media laws limit freedom of expression and allow the Government to have control. Threats, arrests and sentencing of journalists have further encouraged self-censorship and silence on controversial issues. Burma is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in 2014, according to the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
In July, Bi Mon Te Nay Journal's three journalists Kyaw Zaw Hein, Win Tin, Thura Aung, and owners Yin Min Htun and Kyaw Min Khaing were arrested and investigated by the Special Branch police in Burma.
The arrests came after they published an article citing an incorrect claim by the Myanmar Democratic Current Force (MDCF) that the people of Burma appointed the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic democracy forces as interim government. MDCF represents grassroots communities and campaigns against land-grabbing and other human rights violations in Burma.
The article was nothing more than a mistake made by the journalists due to inaccurate claims, and it wasn't a threat or to alarm the public as the military-backed government claimed.
They were investigated by the Special Branch police and charged under section 505 (b) of Burma's penal code for "committing or inducing others to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility." The journal was shut down after they were arrested.
On 16th October, Pabedan Township Court in Rangoon sentenced them to two years in prison. It was the maximum punishment under Section 505 (b). Section 505 (b) is one of the repressive laws which the military-backed government in Burma uses to jail activists and journalists. They are now serving their prison sentences in Insein Prison.
The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to gather all relevant information, wherever it may occur, relating to violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.