UNHRC: Oral statement on free expression and elections on Myanmar

ARTICLE 19 delivered the following joint oral statement to the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council:

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the second report of Ms. Yanghee Lee as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

We share the Special Rapporteur’s concern about the deterioration of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and freedom of peaceful assembly, and reiterate the importance of protecting these rights in the countdown to the November 2015 elections.

Ensuring that the Myanmar public have access to independent and plural perspectives, including critical views, ahead of the elections, requires the Ministry of Information to relinquish its control over the media.

We repeat the Special Rapporteur’s findings that both the broadcasting and public service media bills being proposed fall short of international standards, and must be improved.

We note that the opening of space for critical debate is severely limited by a failure to implement the 2014 News Media Law. As a result, journalists are still being taken to criminal courts for their reporting and given long sentences of hard labour.

We also share the Special Rapporteur’s concern regarding the continuing violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Since her visit, peaceful student protesters have been subjected to violence at the hands of the police and paramilitaries sanctioned by the government. On 10 March 2015 in particular, students, journalists, monks and ambulance workers were subjected to excessive violence and ill treatment during peaceful protests in Letpadan and Yangon.

We join the Special Rapporteur in urging the release of all journalists and all persons detained for peaceful protest, and ask her what the government must do to ensure the independent and effective investigation of the police and paramilitaries’ conduct against the student protesters?

We also urge the government to abolish all paramilitary groups by repealing Article 128 of the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure, and remind the police of their duty to protect protesters from violence.

Thank you.