#Burma #myanmar #Journalists and #protestors #charged with #Section #18


Over 50 journalists who staged a silent protest during President Thein Sein’s visit to the Myanmar Peace Center on Saturday have been charged for protesting without permission, according to senior police sources.
The journalists sat outside the center wearing black tape across their mouths and T-shirts saying: “Stop Killing the Press” as the president was meeting with artists in the morning. They were joined by residents from Michaungkan who have been waging a year-long protest to claim their confiscated lands back.
“All journalists and Michaungkan residents who participated in the protest have been charged with Section 18 [of the Peace Assembly and Procession Law] because they did not apply for permission and held an illegal protest. They will be investigated through photo records. They may be released on bail after they have been arrested,” said a senior police official on condition of anonymity.
The protests came in response to the recent sentencing of four journalists and the chief executive of the now defunct Unity Journal with ten years hard labour for an investigative report on the existence of a secret weapons factory.
The interim press council held a meeting on Saturday and issued a statement condemning the ten-year sentence of the Unity five and requested a meeting with the President. They also forwarded a motion saying they would resign and dissolve the council if their request was not met.
“The press council will request a meeting with the President. If the government fails to give their response, there is no reason for me to stay in this organisation if we cannot protect and represent journalists. In my personal view, we are ready to resign if the president does not respond to our demands,” said Chit Win Maung, a member of the interim Myanmar Press Council.
International journalist associations and human rights groups have criticised the recent media crackdown saying as a repression of civil liberties and press freedom.
Ei Mon Kyaw, the executive editor of Doe Taung Thu journal, published by People Power Media, heard that she may be one of the ones charged under Section 18 for attending the protest.
“I’m sad after hearing that I’m included among those who have been charged. If I’ve been really charged, I will face the case bravely,” she said.
Others who participated in the protest had not been officially informed yet but were ready to face any charges.
“The police station did not inform me officially, but I’ve learnt from my sources that I’m included in the list of journalists that will be charged. As I’ve done what I should have done, I’m ready to face it,” said Aung Thura, chief reporter of the 7 Day daily newspaper.

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