Stop Unlawful Detention and Imprisonment of Journalists

Myanma journalists gather at Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda with prayers for colleagues sentenced to 10 years' hard labor.

Target: President of Myanmar Thein Sein and President of the United States Barack Obama

Goal: Stop the unlawful detention and imprisonment of media workers

Four Unity newspaper reporters and the newspaper’s CEO have been arrested in Myanmar and have each been sentenced to ten years of imprisonment with hard labor, indicating that “freedom of speech” is no longer a reality in that country. The five media workers are convicted of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, and “disclosing state secrets” after publishing an article on an alleged chemical weapons factory. Meanwhile, three editors from the Bi Mon Te Nay newspaper have been arrested and detained after publishing an article claiming that the Myanma opposition leader had been appointed to lead an interim government. Countless other journalists have been held and then imprisoned for months at a time on exaggerated charges. 

Despite news media reforms enacted by President Thein Sein, which officially abolished censorship three years ago, Myanmar’s free speech laws still do not provide adequate protections for journalists. President Sein has resorted to trespassing laws, and to laws left over from the days when Myanmar was a British colony, to arrest journalists under the guise of protecting national security.

These journalists are prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released. President Thein Sein’s promises to promote and protect free speech, human rights, and peaceful assembly are hollow. The U.S. has pledged both support and money to Myanmar if it reforms its tyrannical laws. However, human rights are still being abused, and the country is slipping farther and farther away from democracy. Let Obama know of Sein’s mistreatment of his citizens, and demand that Sein free incarcerated media workers. According to the Reporters Without Borders free press index, Myanmar is ranked 145th out of 180 countries: simply put, the citizens of Myanmar have a right to information and free speech, and they deserve these liberties now. 


Dear President Thein Sein and President Barack Obama,

Quick and concrete steps must be taken to stop the unlawful detention and imprisonment of journalists and other media workers in Myanmar. President Thein Sein, you promised to uphold democracy and abolish censorship in 2011, yet your office still relies on draconian laws from colonial and military rule to justify freedom of speech and opinion violations. Your claim that Myanmar is the most democratic Asian country is both ludicrous and insulting. Imprisoned journalists are prisoners of conscience, and must be released immediately.

President Barack Obama, halt all funding towards the Myanma government until legitimate freedom of speech laws are passed and all journalists are released from state prisons with all charges dropped. Make Myanmar live up to it’s word: demand that President Sein guarantee democratic protections for his citizens. The restrictive military apparatus from the age of the military junta should no longer be employed to curtail freedom of expression. All Myanma citizens have a right to information.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Khin Maung Win via Creative Commons

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