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Myanmar Jails Journalists on Defamation Charges

Two journalists in Myanmar have been convicted of defamation and sentenced to two months in jail over an article that included an unflattering quote allegedly made by a member of the military-dominated parliament.

The conviction of the Myanmar Post's chief editor Than Htaik Thu and reporter Hsan Moe Tun is the latest incident to raise concerns about worsening press freedom in Myanmar, also known as Burma, which has made efforts to emerge from decades of harsh, military dictatorship.

The article in question, which was written last year, quoted a lawmaker, Major Thein Zaw, as suggesting that military members of parliament have low levels of education. The lawmaker denied making the comments.

Since direct military rule ended in 2011, Myanmar has taken several steps to improve freedom of speech, including ending direct censorship of the country's newspapers and releasing some jailed journalists.

But journalists continue to be subject to arrest, intimidation, and censorship. Many have been thrown in jail after reporting on issues the government says are too sensitive to cover.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders says Burma ranks just 144th out of 180 nations in press freedom.

Freedom of expression also continues to be restricted for those who are not members of the press.

Earlier this week, a court sentenced a bar manager and two colleagues to two and a half years in prison for using an image of Buddha in a flyer that a judge said insulted Buddhism. The flyer, promoting discounted drinks and electronic music, depicted Buddha in vibrant colors wearing large headphones.

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