The International Press Institute (IPI) has joined a group of 20 global press freedom and human rights organizations in welcoming Myanmar’s creation of a Constitutional Amendment Committee tasked with supporting the country’s transition to democracy. The group is recommending specific changes to protect freedom of expression and media freedom in the constitution.

Despite a promising start, press freedom has failed to flourish under the leadership of Nobel Prize winner and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. Last year, a court sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison following their investigation of mass killings of members of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state. This week, the journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were announced as the recipients of the 2019 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

Read the full statement below.

20 expert organisations urge Myanmar to fully guarantee the internationally protected right to freedom of expression in the Constitution

A new parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing Myanmar’s constitution is an opportunity for the government to guarantee the democratic rights to free expression, media freedom, and access to information.

We welcome the government’s creation of the Constitutional Amendment Committee, established to review and propose amendments that will support Myanmar’s transition to democracy.

Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution does not include the guarantees required in a democracy to protect freedom of expression. Those that it does include do not meet relevant international human rights standards. This threatens the transition to and quality of Myanmar’s democracy as can be seen for example in the wide range of laws used to prosecute journalists and human rights defenders.

We call on the Constitutional Amendment Committee to recommend:
• Replacement of the current heavily prescribed guarantee for freedom of expression in Articles 354(a) and 365 with a single article that guarantees the right to freedom of expression in accordance with international standards, so that it fully reflects the requirements of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
• A new separate article guaranteeing the right to access information held by public authorities.
• A new separate article guaranteeing media freedom, which should prohibit prior censorship of the media or licensing of the print media and individual journalists, and should protect journalism as well as the independence of the Myanmar Press Council, Myanmar Broadcasting Council, and any future public service media.
• Each guarantee should include only those limitations that are provided by law and are necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, or for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.

We are committed to supporting Myanmar’s transition to democracy and would be happy to provide further information and guidance as the Committee conducts its review.

Action Committee for Democracy Development (ACDD)
Burma News International (BNI)
Center for Law and Democracy
Equality Myanmar
Free Expression Myanmar (FEM)
Generation Wave
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Commission for Jurists (ICJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM)
Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN)
Myanmar Journalists’ Union (MJU)
Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN)
Myanmar Women Journalist Society (MWJS)
Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists (PCMJ)
PEN America
PEN Myanmar
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Smile Education Foundation