Aung San Suu Kyi crowned world’s ‘biggest backslider in press freedom’
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Aung San Suu Kyi crowned world’s ‘biggest backslider in press freedom’

WHILE there have been calls to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize and she has been stripped of accolades like the Freedom of Oxford, the Burmese leader has now been given another, albeit dubious, honour.

Responding to US President Donald Trump’s announcement of a so-called “Most Dishonest & Corrupt Media Awards of the Year” via Twitter on Jan 2, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its own Press Oppressors awards.

State Counsellor Suu Kyi was recognised alongside autocrats like Xi Jinping of China, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, in being awarded “winner” in the category of Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom by CPJ.

The press freedom non-profit wrote that “after Suu Kyi’s party took power in 2016, the last five journalists in jail were pardoned and hopes for media freedom were high.”

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“However, most of the legal structure that has long restricted the press remains in place and journalists continue to be imprisoned,” it said.

“Security officials obstruct and harass journalists trying to cover what the UN has termed ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ by authorities in the country’s northern Rakhine State.”


(From left) Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar, on Dec 11, 2017. Source: Reuters/Antoni Slodkowski

The CPJ pointed to the arrest of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in December as evidence of shrinking press freedom in the nascent democracy under Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

SEE ALSO: Burma arrests two Reuters journalists covering Rohingya crisis

The two potentially face up to 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted under the country’s Colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Reuters’ Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler wrote in a statement this week that: “Their arrest and continued incarceration represent an egregious attack on press freedom — preventing them, and deterring other journalists, from reporting independently in Myanmar.”


Donald Trump at a rugby match in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Jan 8, 2018. Source: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters


“We again call for their immediate release.”

In October, journalists from Singapore and Malaysia were jailed for two months for flying a drone near the Burmese parliament building in the capital Naypyitaw.

The CPJ’s highest honour was reserved for President Trump: the Overall Achievement in Undermining Press Freedom. “The United States, with its First Amendment protection for a free press, has long stood as a beacon for independent media around the world,” it wrote.

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While previous presidents had criticised the media, CPJ said Trump had actively empowered “repressive leaders” around the world by undermining American news outlets and refusing to raise issues of press freedom with figures like Xi, Erdoğan and Sisi.

Many anti-democratic leaders had adopted the “fake news” epithet, said CPJ, noting that as “Trump and other Western powers fail to pressure the world’s most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom, the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high.”