Burmese newspapers send government message: 'journalism is not a crime'

Democratic Voice of Burma video journalist Zaw Phay was arrested in 2012 while attempting to interview an education department official about a Japanese-funded scholarship. He was charged with trespassing on government property and disturbing a public servant, and was sentenced Monday to one year in prison.
By JC Finley   |   April 11, 2014 at 12:37 PM   |   Comments

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar, April 11 (UPI) -- Several newspapers in Myanmar are protesting government censorship of the media by printing blacked-out front pages in an effort to send the message that, as one paper said on its back cover, "Journalism is not a crime."

The black page protest follows the sentencing of Democratic Voice of Burma video journalist Zaw Phay, 41, to one year in prison after a 2012 arrest for trespassing on government property and disturbing a public servant.

The video journalist was arrested after attempting to interview an official at the local education department in Magway regarding a Japanese-funded scholarship program. The official filed a complaint against Zaw Phay, who was then arrested.

Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk officer Benjamin Ismail said, "It is unacceptable that local officials can obstruct a journalist’s work and have him sentenced to imprisonment just because they feel he disturbed them. We call on the local authorities to release Zaw Phay and we ask the government to ensure that media freedom is respected equally everywhere, without differences between Rangoon and the rest of the country."

"We are not only worried about the impact this sentence could have on freedom of information in Burma but also about what it reveals about the situation in the country," Ismail added.

Myanmar -- also known as Burma -- is ranked 145 out of 180 countries by the 2014 Reporters Without Borders' press freedom index.

[Reporters Without Borders]

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