Rights body questions freedom of expression in Myanmar

Yangon, Jan 25 (IANS) Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday questioned the repression on freedom of expression in Myanmar and urged the government to take steps to protect it, a media report said.

The HRW report said there has been an escalation in the suppression of opposition critics by the state authorities, Efe news reported.

The research and rights advocacy group urged the government-led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to reject legislation inherited from the previous government.

The erstwhile government here was made up of ex-generals of the last military junta that criminalised opposition views, even those expressed peacefully.

“Though Burma’s new government includes more than 100 former political prisoners, it has done little to eliminate the laws used to prosecute peaceful expression,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams in a statement.

“Instead, during the government’s first year there was an escalation in prosecutions of peaceful political speech,” he added.

The organisation cited, among others, the cases of two executives of the Eleven Media group, accused of defamation after reporting a corruption case involving a senior official of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Suu Kyi’s party.

According to HRW, the government has used “particularly aggressive” defamation laws, which can carry sentences of up to three years in prison, with at least 40 cases in the first eight months in power, compared to just seven in the previous two years.

“The Burmese people expected the NLD government to bring an end to this kind of repression, not add to the ranks of political prisoners,” Adams said.

Myanmar was governed by military regimes from General Ne Win’s coup in 1962 until 2011, when a transition period began that allowed the democratic movement led by Suu Kyi to win the elections and govern.