Reporters Without Borders


Thein Sein

Elected by parliament on 4 February 2011 as the country’s eighth president, Thein Sein has too contradictory a record to warrant cancelling his status as predator.

In March 2011, he declared in his inauguration speech that the role of the media should be respected. Yet in May 2011, harsh restrictions on cyber cafés were made even tougher. On 14 September 2011, Sithu Zeya, a reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma, had a previous prison sentence extended for 10 years on a charge of having reported information that could “damage the tranquillity and unity in the government”.

A general amnesty decreed on 13 January this year led to the release of all the Democratic Voice of Burma journalists, as well as independent reporters, and several dozen political prisoners. Then an engineer in the construction ministry initiated criminal proceedings against the Modern Weekly magazine and one of its reporters, Thet Su Aung. In March 2012, the newspaper The Voice was sued for defamation by the mining ministry.

Censorship has not completely disappeared under Thein Sein, despite his recognition of the international benefits that his moves toward political openness have brought. The repressive reactions of the notorious press scrutiny and registration division have returned in full force. The media-control agency summoned and reprimanded two newspapers in March 2012, following publication of articles deemed to violate official policy.

Thein Sein could be the last member of the Burmese junta to be listed as a predator. To achieve this, he should undertake legal reforms that would annul the Electronic Act against unauthorized use of digital media, and the state of emergency law, as well as enact a media law to end censorship. He should also order the release of four journalists and a blogger who are still imprisoned.

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