News / Asia

Burma Charges Five Journalists for Disclosing 'State Secrets'

VOA News
Burma has charged four reporters and the chief executive officer of a weekly journal with violating the country's state secrets law for publishing a story on an alleged chemical weapons factory.

The case is renewing concerns about media freedom in Burma, also known as Myanmar, which has undergone a series of reforms since direct military rule ended in 2011.

The story, which appeared in the Rangoon-based Unity Journal on January 25, claimed a secret chemical weapons factory was being built in central Burma's Pauk township.

The government has acknowledged that the sprawling, 12-square kilometer facility is a defense ministry factory, but denies it has anything to do with chemical weapons.

Spokesman Ye Htut says in an interview with VOA's Burmese service that President Thein Sein discussed the arrests during a meeting with a delegation from Human Rights Watch.

"It has got nothing to do with freedom of expression. It has been taken action against them in accordance with our National Security. However they [those journalists arrested] will have full legal rights to defend themselves. And then we have explained to HRW delegation that they will have free [independent] and fair trial," he said.

The four editors and CEO were arrested last week.

The Myanmar Press Council, which works on behalf of Burmese journalists, says the government could have done a better job at handling the case. Press Council member Zaw Thet Htwe told VOA Burmese that authorities should have been informed his group at the very beginning of the case, instead of after the arrest of the Unity Journal journalists.

State media said late Wednesday they have been charged with disclosing official secrets and trespassing on restricted areas of the factory.

Officials said the charges were brought in accordance with Burma's 90-year-old State Secrets Act, though it is unclear what state secret, if any, was unveiled in the article.

Under the State Secrets Act, the journalists could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted of unlawfully entering a state military facility.

Meanwhile, newspaper vendors say authorities have confiscated all copies of the January 25 edition of the Unity Journal.

The moves run counter to the promises of increased media freedom by Burmese President Thein Sein.

Since a nominally civilian government took over in 2011, Burma has introduced a number of media reforms, including ending pre-publication censorship and releasing imprisoned journalists.

But rights group have complained that journalists continue to be subject to arrest, intimidation, and censorship.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders says Burma still ranks 151st out of 179 nations in press freedom.


This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid