The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, today vehemently condemned a move by Myanmar’s military to forcibly close five independent media organizations and called on the international community to take immediate action to defend press freedom.
On March 8 Myanmar’s military junta, which seized power in a coup last month, announced that it had revoked the licences of Mizzima, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now and 7Day News and that these media outlets should stop publishing and broadcasting immediately.
Earlier that day, the offices of Myanmar Now were raided by police and soldiers, who seized computers, servers and other equipment. The offices had already been evacuated on January 28 in anticipation of the coup.
IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi denounced the junta’s latest attack on press freedom.
“Revoking the licences of independent media outlets that have been providing vital information about ongoing events in the country is a draconian measure that amounts to direct censorship and breaches fundamental rights and international standards, to which Myanmar has committed”, she said. “The international community must strongly oppose the ongoing assault on independent media and do everything in their power to support these media, through financial and other means, in this time of profound crisis.”
Despite now even greater risks, Soe Myint, the editor-in-chief of Mizzima Media and an IPI member, said his news outlet would stay strong.
“Mizzima will continue what it has been doing – to continue to publish and broadcast as an independent media in the country through multimedia platforms including TV channel”, he told IPI.
In a statement published on its website, Mizzima Media said that “the illegitimate military regime in Myanmar tonight announced that Mizzima Media, along with four independent media outlets, are banned in the country. Their license to publish and broadcast is revoked.“ The news outlet emphasized that it would continue to broadcast via multimedia platforms such as its websites in English and Burmese as well as social media and the free-to-air Mizzima TV channel.
Independent media have played a critical role informing both the Myanmar public and the international community about the mass protests against the February 1 military coup in the country in which the democratically elected government was overthrown. Rallies against the regime have been intensifying for weeks, with protesters denouncing the military dictatorship and demanding the release of civilian leaders, such as President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Since then, there has been a significant increase in violence by security forces against demonstrators and journalists, as IPI previously reported. In addition, the government has repeatedly blocked the internet at night to prevent protestors and media from using VPN to access social media platforms to disseminate information.
Just days after the coup, IPI hosted an online press briefing with Soe Myint about the impact on press freedom and journalism.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article contained a typo stating that the licenses of media outlets were revoked on February 8. The correct date is March 8.