Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

Predators of Press Freedom: Burma - Thein Sein

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 3 May 2011
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Predators of Press Freedom: Burma - Thein Sein, 3 May 2011, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Thein Sein, President, Burma

Burma's parliament elected Thein Sein as the country's eighth president on 4 February 2011. The same day, a Rangoon court sentenced Maung Maung Zeya, a journalist working for Democratic Voice of Burma, an independent exile radio and TV station, to a total of 13 years in prison for violating the Unlawful Association Act, Immigration Act and Electronics Act. Two days before that, Kaung Myat Hlaing, a blogger also known as "Nat Soe," received a 10-year jail term under the Electronics Act.

In his inaugural address on 30 March, Thein Sein tried to present the new government in a positive light. "We must also respect the role of the media as a fourth estate," he said. Fine words. But despite a few releases designed to give the military-backed government a more flexible image, journalists remain under permanent surveillance. Those suspected of sending video footage or reports about the disastrous situation to media outside the country are always hunted down by the president's thugs. Three journalists who were given long jail sentences at a trial in November 2008 – Zarganar, Zaw Thet Htwe and Thant Zin Aung – are still in prison. A decision to exempt sports and entertainment publications from prior censorship by the notorious Press Scrutiny Board is just window dressing.

The 65-year-old Thein Sein oversees a cabinet whose 30 members are mostly former army officers and has inherited the "directed democracy" system created by his predecessor, Gen Than Shwe, the head of the now officially-dissolved military junta. Than Shwe does not intend to retire from political life and now heads a "State Supreme Council," which is able to act without referring to parliament.

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