BANGKOK: When five Myanmar journalists were sentenced to decade-long prison terms for reporting the alleged existence of a military-run chemical weapons factory in Myanmar a few years ago, Aung San Suu Kyi — then an opposition lawmaker — condemned the harsh punishments as “very excessive.”
The journalists, from the now-defunct Unity publication, had been convicted for violating the nation’s Official Secrets Act — the same colonial-era law now being leveled against a pair of Reuters reporters who are facing a staggering 14 years behind bars each, reports AP.
“It’s not that I don’t accept a concern over national security,” Suu Kyi told supporters during a July 2014 rally, according to an article published at the time in the Irrawaddy, a local media outlet. “But in a democratic system, security should be in balance with freedom.”
When “the rights of journalists (to report) are being controlled,” Suu Kyi said, the very notion of democratic reform in Myanmar is “questionable.”
Three and a half years on, the thinking of Suu Kyi, who now heads the government, has apparently changed dramatically.Rather than champion the press, she has presided over an administration whose courts have aggressively pursued legal charges against dozens of journalists, along with other attempts to suppress and discredit the media.