International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma


Friday, July 14, 2017

Immediate Release: Joint Statement - Myanmar Authorities Must Immediately Release and Drop Charges Against three Detained Journalists

Immediate Release


Joint Statement: Myanmar Authorities Must Immediately Release and Drop Charges Against three Detained Journalists

14 July, 2017

 

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, condemn the arrest, detention and prosecution of six people, including three journalists, under the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act in Myanmar. We demand that these charges against them are dropped and that the three journalists are immediately and unconditionally released, as they have been detained solely in connection with their peaceful journalistic activities. The three journalists, Thein Zaw (also known as Lawi Weng) from the Irrawaddy magazine, Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Aung from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), as well as those with them at the time - Mai Tun Aye, Mai San Nyunt, and Mai Aung Kham - were detained by the military on 26 June, 2017 in northern Shan State. They were detained after attending a ceremony in an area controlled by the ethnic armed organization, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
 

On 28 June, all six men were charged with being in contact with an unlawful association under section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, a law that has been in place since colonial times. Mai San Nyunt and Mai Aung Kham, the drivers of the vehicle transporting the journalists, were additionally charged with Article 8 of the 2012 Export and Import Law for using a vehicle without a licence. They are all currently being held at Hsipaw prison in northern Shan State, and their next court appearance is scheduled for 21 July. If convicted under the Unlawful Associations Act, they each face between two and three years' imprisonment as well as a fine. A lack of independence of the judiciary and arbitrary use of the Unlawful Associations Act makes the situation for the six detained individuals particularly worrisome.
 

The Unlawful Associations Act is often used by the Myanmar Army to arbitrarily imprison people from ethnic minority and conflict affected areas. Myanmar's military has previously launched large scale offensives against the TNLA and fighting between the two continues.
 

In order to undertake their work, journalists need to be able to report from both sides of a conflict. On 27 June, 25 news outlets, organizations and journalist networks published an open letter to the President, State Counsellor and Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Army. The letter described the arrests as "restricting and censoring the press" and argued that all people in Myanmar should be able to receive information from regions controlled by ethnic armed organizations.
 

The arrest of the three journalists signals the alarming decline of press freedom in Myanmar. Despite the election of a civilian-led government, Myanmar remains a hostile place for journalists and human rights defenders to operate. Defamation suits under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act have been increasingly used against journalists. Harassment using the criminal justice system is a tactic frequently used to delegitimize, undermine and punish the work of journalists and human rights defenders.
 

Article 6 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders states that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including having access to information."
 

We urge the Myanmar authorities to take immediate action to:
 

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Thein Zaw, Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Aung, who have been detained solely in connection with their peaceful journalistic activities;
     
  • Drop all politically-motivated charges against Mai Tun Aye, Mai San Nyunt and Mai Aung Kham;
     
  • Repeal the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act and Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act and immediately review, amend or repeal other existing repressive laws including the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, relevant sections of the Penal Code, the media laws and others to ensure they comply with international human rights law and standards;
     
  • Undertake urgent legal and practical measures to ensure the independence, competence, impartiality and accountability of judges, lawyers and prosecutors;
     
  • Enact specific legislation and other measures to create a safe and enabling environment for journalists and human rights defenders in accordance with international human rights standards.
     

Endorsed by:
 

1.      Action Committee for Democracy Development (ACDD)

2.     All India Network of Individuals and NGOs working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI)

3.     Amnesty International

4.     Arakan Observer Group

5.     Arakan Watch

6.     Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

7.     Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)

8.     Association Suisse Birmanie (ASB)

9.     Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)

10.  Burma Campaign UK (BCUK)

11.   Burma Centre Delhi

12.  Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)

13.  Burma Link

14.  Burma Monitor Group (BMG)

15.  Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

16.  Bytes for All

17.  Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO)

18.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide

19.  Civil Rights Defenders (CRD)

20. Community Partners International (CPI)

21.  Farmer and Labour Activists Group (FLAG)

22. Fortify Rights 

23. Free Burma Campaign (South Africa) (FBC) (SA)

24. Frontier Myanmar

25. Future Light Center (FLC)

26. Genuine People's Servants (GPS)

27.  Human Rights Defenders Alert

28. Human Rights Alert Manipur

29. Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP)

30. Institute for Asian Democracy

31.  Info Birmanie

32. International Campaign for the Rohingya

33. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre

34. Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)

35. Interfaith Cooperation Forum

36. Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG)

37.  Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT)

38. Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)

39. Karen Women's Organization (KWO) 

40. Kayan National Party (KNP)

41.  Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS)

42. Let's Help Each Other (LHEO)

43. Mae Tao Clinic (MTC)

44. Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA)

45. Network for Social Development and Peace

46. Norwegian Burma Committee (NBC)

47. Odhikar

48. People's Watch (PW)

49. Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)

50. Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI)

51.  People Empowerment Foundation (PEF)

52. Progressive Voice (PV)

53. Pusat KOMAS

54. Quarterly Journal of Federalism

55.  Ramhkye

56. Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU)

57.  Rohingya Academy

58. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee (RARC)

59. Rohingya Youth Development Forum (RYDF)

60. Social Harmony and Inclusive Development Organization

61.  Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

62. Swedish Burma Committee

63. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)

64. Tavoyan Women's Union (TWU)

65. Think Centre

66. United States Campaign for Burma

67. Yaung Chi Oo Workers' Association (YCOWA)

68. စိမ္းလန္းျပင္ဦးလြင္


For further information, please contact:
 

1. Sejin Kim, Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Senior Programme Officer, Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); +66 (0) 2 1 082 64346, hrd@forum-asia.org (English)
 

2. Aung Khaing Min, Executive Director, Progressive Voice; +66 (0) 97 995 5305, akm@progressive-voice.org (Burmese/English)
 

3. Kristina Jelmin, Executive Director, Swedish Burma Committee; +46 (0) 70 759 8046, kristina@burmakommitten.org (English/Swedish)

Download this Joint Statement HERE.

 

 

About Progressive Voice

 

Progressive Voice is a participatory rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 the same day that Progressive Voice was formally established. For further information, please see our press release "Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice."

 

    
 

This message was sent to icfab8888.peacefulway@blogger.com from info@progressive-voice.org

Progressive Voice
Progressive Voice
PO Box 96
Mae Sot, Tak 63110, Thailand


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As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,
"Justice is a dream. But it is a dream we are determined to realize."