Media face blockade over human rights reporting in Myanmar

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

AL Jazeera’s report on the crisis in Myanmar: The video includes exclusive interviews with villagers who reveal accounts of military officers killing a 13-year-old boy and women in a village being held down and raped. Video: Al Jazeera English

Media organisations which, are attempting to report on soldiers committing human rights abuses against villagers in Myanmar are being obstructed and harassed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The restriction comes after allegations of abuse including sexual violence by the Myanmar military, amid the conflict in the country’s northern Rakhine state.

The Irrawaddy, reported border guards and military officers in mid-October blocked journalists and photographers from several news organisations, including: The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Times, Democratic Voice of Burma, and 7 Day Daily. Media were blocked from traveling north of the state’s Kyikanpyin police station to areas in the Maungdaw Township, where joint military-police security operations are underway.

‘Unsafe’

The same report stated, security officials told reporters they could not travel to the area because it was unsafe for journalists.

Military officials also ordered journalists to delete photographs they had taken of the aftermath of an October 9, 2016, attack on a border guard post that killed several police officers. The reporters refused and also declined to tell officers their names or the media outlets they worked for.

‘Nothing to hide’

CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, Shawn Crispin, said that if the government truly has nothing to hide, media should be allowed to report freely in the state.

“The best way to prove or disprove allegations of rights abuses is to allow independent media to probe the accusations,” Crispin said in the CPJ report.

Reuters have also reported of dozens of women being raped or sexually assaulted by Myanmar soldiers.

Zaw Htay, the spokesman for President Htin Kyaw, has denied the reports.

‘No logical way’

According to a Reuters news article, Htay said: “There’s no logical way of committing rape in the middle of a big village of 800 homes, where insurgents are hiding.”

Htay accused, Fiona MacGregor, an investigative editor at the independent Myanmar Times, for being biased against the government after she reported on allegations that claimed security forces raped around 30 ethnic women.

Acccoring to CPJ, MacGregor said she believed Htay aimed to stifle reporting on the allegations.

Myanmar Times managers soon fired MacGregor for breaching company policy against damaging national reconciliation and damaging the paper’s reputation by publishing the article.

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