Statement

Myanmar: Journalist investigating illegal logging killed

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ARTICLE 19

14 Dec 2016

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ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned about the death of Eleven Media journalist Soe Moe Tun, and urges the Myanmar authorities to conduct an independent, speedy, and effective investigation into his killing, including explicitly investigating whether he was killed for his reporting.

“Our condolences go to Soe Moe Tun’s family, friends and his colleagues at Eleven Media,” said Oliver Spencer, ARTICLE 19 Head of Asia. “Myanmar has significant levels of illegal logging and journalists like Soe Moe Tun are challenging the corruption that fuels it. The police need to explicitly investigate whether this is a crime against freedom of expression and seek to find both the perpetrators and the instigators of such a terrible wrongdoing.”

Soe Moe Tun, who had been reporting for Eleven Media about illegal logging in the country, was found dead on 13 December 2016 on the side of a road in Monywa, Sagaing region, Upper Myanmar. His body showed signs of beating.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, illegal logging is a significant problem in Myanmar, with poor governance, weak law enforcement and conflict hindering efforts to address the problem. Independent reporting on illegal logging is extremely important to expose these practices to the public and advocate for their elimination.

The killing of Soe Moe Tun also occurs in the growing climate of government pressure against media houses and journalists reporting on allegations of human rights violations, including by the Myanmar military. It also happens in the light of impunity for the murder of journalist Par Gyi, who was killed in 2014 in military detention.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Mynamar authorities to fully investigate the death of Soe Moe Tun, including whether he was killed due to his reporting on illegal logging. In particular, as highlighted in the 2011 Joint Declaration of four free expression mandates, they must ensure that :

  • The investigation should be carried out by an authority outside of the jurisdiction or sphere of influence of state authorities that might be implicated in the events;
  • Investigations should lead to the identification and prosecution of all of those responsible for the killing, including direct perpetrators and instigators, as well as those who conspire to commit, aid and abet, or cover up such crimes;
  • The investigation should be conducted with the presumption that the victim was killed for exercising his right to freedom of expression, until proven otherwise, and relevant lines of enquiry related to the victim’s expressive activities have been exhausted;
  • The next-of-kin should be afforded effective access to the procedure. At the very least the next-of-kin must be involved in the procedure to the extent necessary to safeguard their legitimate interests. In most instances, this will require giving access to certain parts of the proceedings and also to the relevant documents to ensure participation is effective.

ARTICLE 19 further calls on the Myanmar Government to adopt necessary reforms to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression, including through the media, and to ensure that the Myanmar media can report on complex political and other issues in the country without fear of violence and harassment.