External Affairs

Sketching Myanmar’s Challenging Media Landscape

Despite having abolished the decades-long practice of literary censorship in 2012, Myanmar has gone the reverse direction of media freedom, particularly since 2014.

Here is a series of cartoons published by The Irrawaddy over the course of four years – from 2014 to 2017 – reflecting the media milestones and hardships experienced in the country.

Justice with strings attached

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, October 30, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, October 30, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

In October 2014, freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Naing, also known as Par Gyi, was killed while in military custody. The Myanmar Army said the journalist was shot dead when he attempted to seize a soldier’s gun and escape detention. Despite his wife’s attempt to get charges filed against the military for the death and alleged torture of her husband, the case was dropped by the police and courts.

Press freedom in Myanmar

Credit: Shwe Lu, May 4, 2016 / The Irrawaddy

Credit: Shwe Lu, May 4, 2016 / The Irrawaddy

Myanmar ended literary censorship in 2012. Four years later in 2016, press freedom in the country is depicted as still in its infancy.

Enjoy freedom of the press

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, May 3, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, May 3, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

This 2014 cartoon demonstrates the control and lack of support for independent media in Myanmar.

No freedom from 66(d)

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, May 19, 2017 / The Irrawaddy

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, May 19, 2017 / The Irrawaddy

There have nearly 70 cases filed under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law – which is used to prosecute online “defamation” during the term of current governing party National League for Democracy.

Press freedom?

Credit: Harn Lay, May 2, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

Credit: Harn Lay, May 2, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

The year 2014 saw backsliding in press freedom in Myanmar with authorities placing restrictions on some publications on not to publish “inappropriate news about the government.” Others were threatened that they would be “held responsible for inciting social unrest” with their coverage of violence in Rakhine State. Four journalists and the CEO of Unity Weekly newspaper were detained by the police force’s Special Branch after the newspaper reported the existence of an alleged chemical weapons factory in Pauk, Magwe Division. All are facing prison terms of up to 14 years for “violating state secret laws.”

Ministry of Information keeps the media in its tentacles

Credit: Zagalay, May 2, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

Credit: Zagalay, May 2, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

Despite the booming private media outlets in the country, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information takes a lion’s share of control of everything related to the media industry.

Myanmar’s press reforms at the bursting point

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, July 15, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, July 15, 2014 / The Irrawaddy

A 2014 cartoon demonstrates the precariousness of press freedom under the quasi-civilian government led by former president U Thein Sein.

Backs to the crisis

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, July 1, 2017 / The Irrawaddy

Credit: Kyaw Thu Yein, July 1, 2017 / The Irrawaddy

Under Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, the Myanmar Army arrested three journalists from independent media outlets, including one from The Irrawaddy, on June 26, accusing them of holding connections with an outlawed ethnic armed group. At the time of publication, they remain in prison.

This article was originally published by The Irrawaddy, an independent news website in Myanmar.