Australia’s media industry union has urged the Federal Government to do more to support Burmese journalists who have been forced to flee Myanmar following the military coup in February.
The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance wants Foreign Minister Marise Payne to issue a stronger condemnation of the military junta’s attacks on freedom of expression, as well as provide safe haven to journalists fearing persecution.
Since the military seized power numerous journalists have been beaten and shot, at least 85 have been arrested, more than 40 detained and several jailed for up to three years.
The union adds that independent media outlets have been stripped of their licences to operate, while dozens of warrants have been issued for the arrest of other journalists who are still at large.
Country’s journalists are in hiding elsewhere in the region
Burmese journalists are in hiding not only in Myanmar but elsewhere in the region. However, Thailand has just sentenced three of these journalists to seven months jail and fined them for entering the country.
“The situation for Burmese journalists is desperate,” said MEAA Media Federal President Marcus Strom.
“They face daily risks of arrest or worse both in Myanmar and Thailand, yet they continue to bravely do their work so the rest of the world knows the situation following the coup.
“Australia must use its moral authority to condemn the junta’s attacks on press freedom, and our government should be supporting and protecting Burmese journalists where it is needed.”
Union asks Aussie Government to put pressure on Thailand
Among other things, MEAA has asked the Australian Government to issue a statement urging Thailand to provide stronger condemnations of the attacks on freedom of expression in Myanmar, and to support the safe relocation of journalists under threat in their territory.
It also wants the Government to provide safe haven, security and support for journalists facing immediate threats in Thailand, including facilitating their relocation to Australia if they ask for it.
In addition, the union has requested Australia to support local and regional civil society organisations located in India and Thailand to assist Burmese journalists facing threatening situations or otherwise struggling to conduct their work – including giving funding, technical and material assistance.
Amnesty International has spoken out on media intimidation
Last month Amnesty International said Myanmar’s military authorities should immediately drop charges against journalists. This includes those in pre-trial detention, on bail, or those with warrants outstanding on them solely for carrying out their work and the peaceful exercise of their human rights.
“Journalists are at the frontline of the struggle to expose the truth on what is happening in Myanmar today,” said Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research.
“The brazen violence, intimidation and harassment the military authorities are levelling at them only illustrates how powerful exposing the truth can be. Individual journalists can be threatened, arrested, or even meet a worse fate – but Myanmar’s free media as a whole can never be silenced.”