Published on May 3, 2021
Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing said the media is “crucial” for freedom of expression and democracy, state newspapers reported on Monday, as the junta pushed ahead with its propaganda war and continued its efforts to crush independent journalism.
He made the remarks at a speech on Sunday morning to mark the opening of the Myawady Media Centre in Yangon’s Yankin township, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
“The media… plays a crucial role in enhancing the freedom of expression for democracy [and] improving the government’s transparency by distributing knowledge to the people,” the report said, attributing the comments to the Senior General.
Local media ought to “prevent the broader infiltration” of ideas and culture from “developed countries” said the report, which was published on World Press Freedom Day.
Last week the junta revoked the publishing license of yet another news outlet, the Kachin-based Myitkyina News Journal. The newspaper said in a statement on Sunday that it had suspended its operations, seven years after it was founded.
“We pledge to try to service the public again if there is any chance to do so in future,” the statement said.
The Mandalay-based Voice of Myanmar (VOM) also announced it was suspending its operations on Monday, a week after chief editor Nay Myo Lin and reporter Shine Aung were detained by the regime.
“We regret to inform you that we have to suspend our operation temporarily because the two are still being detained,” VOM said on its Facebook page.
Nay Myo Lin’s wife, Zarni Mann, told Myanmar Now that she has not been given a reason for the arrests. Her husband is being interrogated at a military base in Mandalay and has not been able to meet with family members, she added.
“They said they had something to ask him and took him,” she said. “I still don’t know anything about his condition.”
At least 84 journalists have been arrested since the February 1 coup, and 50 of them are still in detention.
While continuing its assault on independent media, the junta has also doubled down on its false claims about the deaths of protesters who were murdered by its police and soldiers.
A Global New Light report last week claimed that several of the more high profile deaths in recent months were caused by health problems or shooting from other protesters.
It repeated the claim that other protesters shot Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing and Kyal Sin–two 19-year-old women whose images became icons of the anti-coup movement after they were murdered by the regime’s forces in February and March.
Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing’s murder was captured on video, and several analyses of footage and images from the Naypyitaw protest confirmed she was shot in the head by a police officer.
And there were several eyewtinesses to Kyal Sin’s murder in Mandalay in early March.
One of them was a friend of hers. “I saw it with my own eyes, they shot at her,” he told Myanmar Now, requesting anonymity. “We didn’t have anything that looked like weapons. We were just peacefully protesting.”
He and other protesters who were nearby when Kyal Sin was shot in the neck are wanted by the regime and are now in hiding.
“As it’s our responsibility, and in honour of Kyal Sin’s death, we’re doing our best to prepare and fight in this revolution,” he said. “We don’t pay attention to what they’re announcing or publishing. We’re going to fight until the end.”
Last week’s report also claimed that Tin Nwe Yi, a 59-year-old teacher killed while protesting in Yangon in February, died of “heart disease”.
One of her family members told Myanmar Now that the hospital has refused to give them an official document stating her cause of death.
“We haven’t gotten an official letter from the hospital. They won’t put it out. If it was a normal death, they would do it,” the relative said. “We went to the hospital but they said they can only give it out if they’re ordered to.”
The report also claimed that Ko Ko Lay, 62, died of heart disease, even though there is a photo of his body after he was shot in the head during a crackdown in Myitkyina on March 8.
Zaw Myat Lin, an NLD official who was abducted in March and murdered in custody, died of “other ways”, the report said. His body showed signs of torture when it was returned to his family.
The report also repeated the military’s claim that a death toll since the coup compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) was “highly bloated.” The group has reported 766 deaths and about 4,600 arrests so far.
The AAPP did not verify the addresses of some of the people on its list or the names of their fathers, the report said.
An AAPP official, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said that if the military believes the group’s figures are inaccurate, then it should allow an international body to investigate the killings.
“They’re just going to continue to deny it blatantly,” he said.
Source – Myanmar NOW ( Min Aung Hlaing hails ‘freedom of expression’ as his regime continues bid to destroy independent media | Myanmar NOW (myanmar-now.org) )