Accountability systems

Accountability systems for media in Myanmar are weak and the country’s history of censorship means that the media is vulnerable to attack on political grounds. A history of arbitrary arrest and a degree of malleability in legislation (and judicial process) means that this is still the case, particularly where the country’s military is concerned. No legal protections currently exist for journalists’ sources, and the state has a long and storied history of overreach.

As has been seen in the high-profile arrest of two Reuters journalists in December 2017, facing politicised charges are still a very real possibility for media practitioners. The pair had been working on a story about a mass grave, and were arrested after being handed documents by police. The documents were regarded as state secrets, as defined by a Colonial-era law. Most journalists regard their case as a set-up involving underhanded tactics on the part of the authorities, reminiscent of a junta-era approach to containing dissent. The police officers have also reportedly been charged, however their case is not playing out in a civilian court and thus there is little oversight.