CPJ Asks Obama to Press Burma on Press Freedoms

The Committee to Protect Journalists wants President Obama to advocate for more press freedom when he visits Burma next week. He is traveling to Asia for the G20 Summit.

In a letter to the President dated Friday, CPJ executive director Joel Simon said Burma had backtracked after releasing jailed journalists in 2012 following the U.S. decision to suspend sanctions on the country.

"Rather than reforming draconian and outdated security laws that curb press freedom, [President] Thein Sein's government is increasingly using the laws to threaten and suppress journalists," he said.

The President called Sein in advance of his trip last week to talk about the unrest there and the need "to support civil and political rights."

Simon pointed to the Burmese army's killing, and possible torture, of a Burmese freelance journalist while in custody, so far without anyone being held responsible, and reports his family had been harassed. Then there are the 10 journalists given prison sentences in the past year.

Given all that, he said, the President should consider reimposing those sanctions.

Suspending the sanctions was a reward for the country's commitment to Democratic reforms, but given the deteriorating situation for journalists, he said, the President should use his influence to "see that justice is served for slain journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, all jailed journalists are released unconditionally, and sweeping legal reforms that protect the press are implemented."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.