Myanmar: are people being punished for telling the truth?


Today (Wednesday 10th October 2018), three journalists from Myanmar were arrested and sent to prison for allegedly showing disrespect toward the government.

They are being investigated under penal code section 505b, which states that:

'whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility; shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.'

According to Amnesty International, this is often used to stifle the work of human rights defenders and more generally the right to freedom of expression.

These three journalists have no right to bail and, if found guilty, could face up to 3 years in prison, simply for doing their jobs! There was a similar incident in August, where two journalists were sentenced to 7 years in prison after they were found guilty of breaching the country's Official Secrets Act. I was sure that Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent years being punished for speaking freely and for standing up for human rights, would have something to say against this. Surely she would not agree for people to be punished for simply speaking the truth?

But instead Aung San Suu Kyi instead defended the prison terms and those who dealt them out, refuting claims that the punishment was unfair.

Amnesty International's Director of Crisis Response has said that:

“Journalists have a vital role to play in holding state officials to account and informing the public. These arrests, which came in response to an article criticising financial management by the Yangon Regional Government, send a worrying message to journalists and anyone who tries to question the government . Rather than detain journalists for doing their job peacefully, the authorities should repeal the oppressive laws being used to create a climate of fear and intimidation.”

I strongly agree with this. If journalists are being punished for informing the public of the facts, surely it is no longer safe for them to do their job. And without journalists, how we will or the rest of the general public find out the truth? If nothing is done to fight against what is happening in Myanmar, freedom of speech and expression will be further compromised and those who need to be heard will stop speaking out.

What do you think? Is it right that these journalists were imprisonned? Have they done anything wrong? Or is the government trying to hide the truth?

Comments (22)

  • Emily 1.jpg Emily @ Topical Talk
    10 Oct 2018

    Hi amusing_impression! You've been awarded a star for the great reasoning in this post. I was really interested to read your opinion on why it matters so much not to punish journalists for reporting facts. You explained the reasons for your opinion really persuasively and clearly, so you also showed brilliant storytelling!

    1. Noel-Park-logo-250x250.jpg amusing_impression | Noel Park Primary School
      Emily @ Topical Talk's comment 13 Oct 2018

      Thank you so much Emily for awarding me a star ✨. I totally enjoyed writing that article and hope I get more than fantastic_duck!
      Thanks 🙏

    2. Hillcrest-logo-250x250.jpg nice_cranberry | Hillcrest Academy | United Kingdom
      Emily @ Topical Talk's comment 30 Nov 2018

      That is not fair because people are aloud to talk for human rights it is their opinian on what they think about something

  • St-Edwards-logo-250x250.jpg chatty_temperature | St Edward's Catholic Primary School
    10 Oct 2018

    I agree that the journalists shouldn't be punished for what they are doing because they are only telling which is good but why should they get arrested for telling the truth.

    1. New-Horizons-logo-250x250.jpg persuasive_aspect | New Horizons Children's Academy
      chatty_temperature's comment 28 Jan 2019

      Hi chatty_ temperature I think you have a really good point on how they were just telling the truth and that they shouldn't have been punished another way you are right is because if for example if a person was to maybe push another person on purpose and the person who got pushed over told someone and the person they told punished them just for telling the truth it wouldn't be very reasonable or fair.

  • St-Josephs-Northfleet-logo-250x250.jpg energetic_conversation | St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Northfleet
    10 Oct 2018

    I think it was very wrong for those people to be imprisoned! It's CLEAR that the government are hiding something! They KNOW the truth, the fact that the Military have been on a certain level of EVIL this past year... They're to scred that people around would figure the truth (we already have) . They probably think the Military would blame them, Aung Sann Suu Kyi would be overthrown and we'd be back to square one. How it was before Aung Sann Suu Kyi intervened. It probably would be even worse as they'd and on to the list of bad things the fact that the Rohingyans are still struggling!

  • Ormiston-Bushfield-logo-250x250.jpg quickwitted_engineer | Ormiston Bushfield Academy A | United Kingdom
    11 Oct 2018

    I honestly believe that Aung Sung Suu Kyi should get her Nobel Prize revoked. She claims to fight for peace yet it is her own country that is currently undergoing all of this crisis - and she doesn't even seem obligated to do something about it. How is it that somebody who won a prize for promoting peace is a tyrant in her own country? Journalists getting penalized simply for doing their jobs? It is clear that Myanmar are trying to hide something; in which case the UN should invest more time and money to investigate whatever this is.

    I understand that some may argue that Aung Sung Suu Kyi is under tremendous pressure and might no be able to do anything without getting criticized by her own people however if this is true then why is she contributing to the persecution of the Rohingya with the military attacking their homes.

    Amusing_impression you said that freedom of speech and expression might be further compromised if this carries on; if this does happen then it will be a deprivation of human rights. What measures do you think must be taken by the rest of the world to ensure that this doesn't happen or if it does, what can we do to reestablish order in Myanmar?

    1. Olivia-Avatar.jpg Olivia @ Topical Talk
      quickwitted_engineer's comment 11 Oct 2018

      This is an excellent comment that shows open-mindedness. Well done! I also particularly like that you have replied to another BNC member and asked challenging questions, which show your curiosity. Well done!

    2. Bruche-logo-250x250.jpg patient_river | Bruche Primary School | United Kingdom
      quickwitted_engineer's comment 12 Oct 2018

      I agree with you her noble prize should be revoked she is not doing anything about Myanmar she is not doing her job correctly

  • Ormiston-Bushfield-logo-250x250.jpg radical_king | Ormiston Bushfield Academy A | United Kingdom
    11 Oct 2018

    In my opinion, I think that it is a very unfair decision to arrest the news reporters as they were simply doing their jobs! Even if the journalists did disrespect the government, fair enough, but where is the solid evidence to back up the point? What if this carries on? Would freedom of speech be an issue for Myanmar? Well, if this continues, there would be more curiosity and suspicion on whether the government are hiding something. Furthermore, the citizens of Myanmar won't trust their government, therefore starting rebellions against them, going on strike and attempts of assassination.

  • Ormiston-Bushfield-logo-250x250.jpg spirited_penguin | Ormiston Bushfield Academy A | United Kingdom
    11 Oct 2018

    I totally agree with you. The journalists are just doing their job, they shouldn't have been imprisoned. The government could be trying to hide something about driving people out of their homes. Maybe the journalists weren't being disrespectful, they were just interviewing the government and they took it the wrong way? We have no evidence that they were being disrespectful. The government in Myanmar don't want people to know what or why they are doing this to the Rohingha refugees, so they'd do anything to protect their scheming. The government look down on people like this just because they can. They know who they are, they have so much power, more power than Aung San Suu Kyi by the looks of it! Therefore, I think they were wrong to imprison them, as they probably have journalists too that try and make it seem like the government are doing the right thing.

  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin | Portobello High School
    11 Oct 2018

    its not right that people are being in prisoned for telling the truth. there is definately something fishy about this so i disagree and its true thta journalists have to report facts so they should not be punished!

  • Noel-Park-logo-250x250.jpg fearless_wolverine | Noel Park Primary School
    12 Oct 2018

    I agree with this statement because words are not always true (people can say anything that they want) but actions can actually do something to help and have an effect on people's lives.

    Aung San Suu Kyi has said many powerful things about human rights, for example:

    "Human beings the world over need freedom and security that they may be able to realise their full potential."
    "I've always been strongly on the side of non-violence"
    "If you do nothing, you get nothing."
    "I do protect human rights and I hope I shall always be looked upon as a champion of human rights.”

    These things may sound great but there’s no use saying things that you are not going to act upon.

    There are several occasions where she has acted in the opposite way to something that she has said, for example:
    She says humans need freedom and security yet defended the judge’s decision to send two journalists to prison for seven years for speaking the truth.
    She says she’s on the side of non-violence but what is she actually doing to stop this happening in Myanmar?
    She says she wanted to protect human rights but she is letting discrimination and prejudice openly occur in her country.

    From the Rohingya’s perspective, her words are useless- they sound like she is standing up for their rights but they are having no effect in protecting them from violence. If she actually acted on her words, there would be a possibility of a change.

  • Boutcher-logo-250x250.jpg magnificent_anteater | Boutcher C of E Primary School A | United Kingdom
    15 Oct 2018

    i know what you mean
    you have expressed this in a way that is more easier to understand for other people.

  • Elaine-logo-250x250.jpg loyal_lychee | Elaine Primary School
    15 Oct 2018

    These people should not be in prison for speaking the truth because even though they have been there for a long period of time they haven't been recognized officially.

  • Elaine-logo-250x250.jpg loving_cloud | Elaine Primary School
    15 Oct 2018

    You have said this in a way so people can understand that it cant always go there way

  • Boutcher-logo-250x250.jpg logical_banana | Boutcher C of E Primary School A | United Kingdom
    16 Oct 2018

    I don't think the journalists should get arrested for telling the truth about the other people in Myanmar killing and terriosing the Rohingya

  • Graveney-logo-250x250.jpg poetic_science | Graveney School | United Kingdom
    17 Oct 2018

    I believe that Aung San Suu Kyi is further endangering her image as a human-rights advocate by backing the sentencing of these journalists. She is destroying the importance of freedom of speech in Myanmar by failing to speak up about their mistreatment. I believe this because she is an icon in her country and around the world. Within Myanmar her word is extremely influential, and therefore by imprisoning the journalists she is setting the tone for further restrictions of freedom and increase of ignorance in her country.

  • Graveney-logo-250x250.jpg beloved_chocolate | Graveney School | United Kingdom
    18 Oct 2018

    I think that everyone should have a chance to speak out for what they believe in without being punished. People can ignore them, they can say that the speakers thoughts are silly, they can even turn their back on the person, but it is not fair that they should be punished. I think that this applies to journalists especially because they are just doing their job, which is to publicise what is happening.

    I think that Myanmar is doing this because they are scared that people will find out things about them that they don't want found out. I think that this is wrong because:
    - People should be allowed to speak out
    - Governments should always be truthful so that their people know what is happening
    - They should not have done anything that needed covering up in the first place

    Also, if they are reporting facts, it is not even their opinion. People may be angry enough to punish people for writing untrue or insulting things about them, but if they are only stating facts, which are true, nobody should be angry because it is what actually happened. If anything bad happened because of the article, it would be their fault because they did what is being reported in the first place.

    I think that this is unfair and should be stopped!

  • RockcliffeManor-logo-250x250.jpg plucky_hurricane | Rockliffe Manor Primary School
    18 Oct 2018

    I think they are because when they do the military will do anything to make sure they can take over the countrie

  • Boutcher-logo-250x250.jpg rhetorical_quince | Boutcher C of E Primary School A | United Kingdom
    24 Oct 2018

    if you have a big crisis you should never blame it on others so they need to be more careful

  • Evelyn-Street-logo-250x250.jpg meticulous_cheetah | Evelyn Street Primary School A
    03 Dec 2018

    Seriously, the reporters were doing their job! Anyway, Aung Sang Su Kyi should do something about this as Bangaldesh camps are filling quickly this inequality may cause unwanted violence and maybe even a beginning of a slight war!

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