Myanmar Junta officially bans the popular independent media THE IRRAWADDY

Myanmar’s military regime officially ordered the closure of The Irrawaddy and revoked its publication license last week. Since the coup last year, there has been a series of lawsuits, raids, arrests and other moves targeting the popular independent media THE IRRAWADDY.

The Irrawaddy has damaged the  “state security, rule of law and public tranquility” through its reporting.

Junta’s Ministry of Information
Attack on Independent Media

The Irrawaddy has been at the forefront of exposing all the misdoings of the Junta Government, including daily extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, air strikes on residential areas, and the torching of civilian properties. Millions of Myanmarese follow its reports and revere its content.

The Junta regime has taken several unprecedented actions against the news agency since the coup. The Junta Government has already banned the popular website of Irrawaddy in Myanmar.

Historical crackdown on the Irrawaddy

In March last year, the military regime sued the news outlet under Article 505 (a) for “disregarding” the armed forces in reporting on the anti-regime protests that were occurring at the time. The police opened a case against The Irrawaddy as a whole rather than individual employees, making it the first news outlet to be sued by the regime after the coup.

On two occasions later that year, The Irrawaddy’s office in downtown Yangon was raided by security forces. No one was arrested during the raids, as The Irrawaddy ceased its operation inside Myanmar following the coup.

Irrawaddy News reporter Zaw Zaw covers a story in Thibaw, Shan state, Myanmar on Aug. 18, 2017. He has since been arrested and sentenced to three years by a junta court. Credit RFA

Several weeks before officially shutting the news agency down, the regime arrested its publisher, U Thaung Win, who remains in custody. A former photojournalist who once worked for The Irrawaddy, Zaw Zawwas sentenced to three years in prison under incitement charges in August this year. One staff member was temporarily detained early this year, and the home of one of the news organization’s editors was recently raided.

No independent Media left in Myanmar

Since taking power, the junta has moved aggressively to shut down media outlets. It has also detained more than 140 journalists, 60 of whom remain in prison and four of whom have died in custody.

“While you can say that the ban has no effect on its exiled journalists or the organization itself, those who are still in the country working for them are being relentlessly prosecuted and are likely to endure more severe punishments, the arrests are still going on. Local journalists aren’t being released as often as in the coup’s early days. They are all being indicted and sentenced to severe punishments.”

Aung : A popular Myanmar-based journalist (Pseudo name for security purpose)

One month after the coup, authorities abolished local outlets Mizzima, the Democratic Voice of Burma, 7 Days, Myanmar Now, and Khit Thit

In total, the military regime has banned 14 news agencies, four publishing houses and two printing presses in the last 20 months since the coup. 

They include the Myitkyina Journal, 74 Media, Tachileik News Agency, Delta News Agency, Zeya Times News Agency, Kamayut News Channel, Kantarawaddy Times, and Mon News Agency.

“It seemed that the military thought early on that the media would be on their side once they were in power after the coup. But quite contrary to their expectation, civil disobedience movements broke out and the media covered the truth, so the junta began to speak out against it just as much as its political enemy the [shadow National Unity Government] NUG,”

Soe Ya (the chief editor of the Delta News Agency, which shut down its operations in Myanmar following a crackdown by the junta last year)

Myanmar has become the world’s second-biggest jailer of journalists since last year’s military takeover, with more than 140 detained. Over 60 remain behind bars and four have died in custody.

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