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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

update 'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid