World Press Freedom Day & the Hope for Full Press Freedom

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 03 Scenes
MoeMaKa, May 04, 2024

World Press Freedom Day & the Hope for Full Press Freedom

May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day, established by UNESCO in 1997. It is a day to honor journalists who have lost their lives due to targeted assassinations in their pursuit of press freedom, to call for the release of imprisoned journalists, and to advocate for increased global press freedom.

The 2024 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize has been awarded to Palestinian journalist Nasser Abu Baker. This year, the issue that has drawn the most attention regarding press freedom is the incident where more than 100 journalists lost their lives during Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip. Over the course of these seven-month-long operations, more than 100 journalists working in Gaza have lost their lives, and the offices of dozens of news outlets have been damaged by bombs and rockets. Even if some journalists in Gaza survived, their family members were killed by bombs and missiles during these operations.

The loss of over 100 Palestinian journalists’ lives in Gaza within a period of seven months stands out as an unparalleled event. Despite these losses, the resilience of journalists in Gaza, who continue to report the news, is commendable.

Reflecting on Myanmar’s recent history, it is evident that numerous journalists have been arrested over the past year, with those detained continuing to face severe punishment. Between 50 and 60 journalists who were arrested after the military coup remain in prison. Except for media outlets and journalists known to support the military council, professional journalists in Myanmar are at constant risk of arrest. Many news outlets and journalists are now based in neighboring countries such as Thailand and India, with some in third countries.

Since the coup d’état, journalism in Myanmar has become a dangerous profession, with journalists being at risk of arrest and facing life-threatening situations. After the military takeover, journalists have been on the frontlines, reporting on widespread protests, riots, armed conflicts, and severe human rights violations. They have faced numerous challenges, including being in the line of fire, encountering hostility from armed groups, and risking being silenced by those committing human rights violations.

Journalists have been arrested, physically beaten, and threatened by the military and government security forces. As the area controlled by the military narrows, other armed groups controlling these areas might also harm the media if they report news unfavorable to them.

Myanmar’s current situation lacks laws, procedures, or an independent and fair judicial system. Journalists must work cautiously to avoid danger in this changing landscape.

Regarding news media, it is necessary to evaluate whether it is the press of political and military organizations, the press for public relations of an organization (in other words, propaganda press), or an independent news media. While there is nothing wrong with having public relations and media relations personnel in political and military organizations, it is essential for various relevant organizations to encourage and support independent news media.

Press freedom must align with the future goal of a federal democracy. It is urgently needed for the people of Myanmar to have press freedom in a future federal democratic state, especially under the current circumstances.

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