Burma - Articles
A surgeon, writer and political commentator, Ma Thida spent 5 and a half years in prison in the 1990s for her activism. Ever since her release she has monitored and written on events in Burma, and, with the lifting of the military regime, now heads PEN International's Myanmar Centre.
While images of the suffering of Rohingya migrants circulated around the world, local journalists and politicians have faced restrictions in trying to report on and speak out on the issue.
An interactive timeline illustrating a year of progress and obstacles to press freedom in Burma.
Aung San Suu Kyi's landslide victory and other key media reforms in recent months have led many in the international community to go gaga for Burma. But IFEX members are cautiously optimistic - especially about the media freedom situation. Here are five reasons why.
In a move showing the government's commitment to reform, Burma has released more than 650 prisoners in a presidential amnesty, including high-profile blogger Nay Phone Latt, five Democratic Voice of Burma journalists and leading musician-journalist Win Maw, report Mizzima News and other IFEX members. Of those released in this latest round of prison releases, 302 of them were political prisoners.
The Burmese government has freed hundreds of prisoners, including the famous comedian Zarganar, and announced that it would free 6,000 more, report Mizzima News, the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International (WiPC), Index on Censorship (Index), ARTICLE 19, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Numerous IFEX members are stepping up pressure on the new government of Burma, which still detains approximately 2,000 political prisoners despite its interest in convincing the international community to end economic sanctions and support its chairing of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2014.
Inside Burma, a photojournalist is facing a possible 23 years behind bars, a political hip hop artist recently released from prison was banned from performing at a charity event, and a dance troupe is being forced to perform in front of a censorship board, reports Mizzima News. Outside the country, the exiled editor of "Irrawaddy" magazine marks the August anniversary of the 1988 uprising that was ruthlessly crushed by the same regime that continues to silence dissident artists and writers, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Nearly eight years after being detained, Burma's most famous activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been freed. But her release comes just days after the Burmese junta declared victory in the country's sham elections, and when more than 2,000 other political prisoners remain locked up. IFEX members around the world that have been vigorously campaigning for Suu Kyi welcomed her release as the "first step" for freedom for Burma.
On 7 November, the Burmese people will go to nationwide polls for the first time in 20 years. But contesting political parties will have seldom been seen or heard of in the state media. Independent websites have already been censored, and foreign journalists will not be allowed to cover the spectacle. Thirty-three IFEX members, including Mizzima News and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), are lobbying the governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting this week in Hanoi to put pressure on Burma to respect free expression - essential if the elections are to be seen as credible, they say.
Three exiled Burmese news websites were hacked on 27 September, the third anniversary of the military's mass killings during the "Saffron Revolution" and ahead of national elections in Burma, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Mizzima News and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The Mizzima News site was one of those hacked.
The Burmese military government has announced its plans to hold elections for the first time in 20 years on 7 November 2010, six days before Aung San Suu Kyi's current house arrest comes to an end. But the junta simply plans to reinforce its military rule with an illegitimate election, say Human Rights Watch and ARTICLE 19. Both IFEX members are calling on the international community and the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to pressure the junta to release 2,000 political prisoners and repeal Internet censorship and all regulations of the media that interfere with freedom of expression.
Correspondents living in Burma detail the dangers of undercover reporting and the layers of censorship to which approved news gathering is subjected in first-hand reports published by Mizzima News.
A Burmese video reporter who challenged government policies in her work was sentenced to 20 years in prison on 31 December, report Mizzima News, the South East Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and other IFEX members. The junta has also stepped up its censorship regulations with the military controlling newspaper content, and film and video footage under greater scrutiny, reports Mizzima News.
Four Burmese journalists have been released from prison after Burma's military government announced on state-run television, on 17 September, that it will give amnesty to 7,114 prisoners. But there was no mention of the more than 2,200 political prisoners still languishing in prisons all over the country, reports Mizzima News. This came a day after Human Rights Watch released a report saying the junta has more than doubled the number of political prisoners in the past two years, including more than 100 in recent months.
Amid a flurry of protests around the world, Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to one and a half years of house arrest, report Mizzima News, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), ARTICLE 19 and other IFEX members.
Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was taken from her home last week and put in Insein Prison on a charge of breaching the conditions of her house arrest order. ARTICLE 19 and Human Rights Watch are demanding that the international community pressure the Burmese military government not to continue Suu Kyi's 13-year detention.
What do you get for helping survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which tore up Rangoon and the Irrawaddy Delta in May? Extreme jail time, apparently. A popular comedian active in Burma's democracy movement was sentenced to 45 years in jail on 21 November for criticising the junta's slow response to the cyclone, videotaping the damage and organising his own relief efforts - what IFEX members are calling a "historical low point" for free expression in Burma.
A young Burmese blogger and a poet who disguised an attack on the country's military leader Than Shwe have received heavy jail sentences, report Mizzima News, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other IFEX members.
Zarganar, the leading Burmese poet, comedian and activist who is currently being detained for criticising the Burmese junta's handling of the cyclone that hit the country in May, has been honoured with PEN Canada's 2008 One Humanity Award.