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HRW: Myanmar must protect freedom of press

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on Myanmar [press release] Saturday to pass more protective media laws and end arbitrary arrests of journalists. The statement listed several journalists who have been arrested since December on politically-motivated charges, including criminal trespass, use of obscene language, and revealing state secrets. The advocacy group went on to call for amendment to section 18 of Myanmar's 2012 Law Relating to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession [text; PDF] as well as two media laws that HRW criticized for their vague language allowing for government censorship and new restrictions visas for foreign journalists. "Only through a free press and government respect for journalists' rights will democratic reform move forward," said Phil Robertson [official profile], HRW's deputy Asia director.

Myanmar has faced criticism for its human rights violations in the years following the dissolution [BBC report] of its military government. Myanmar passed [JURIST report] a new media law and a new publishing law on the same day in March, with some saying the two work at cross-purposes and fail to sufficiently protect journalists. Human rights group Fortify Rights [official website] issued a report [JURIST report] in February claiming evidence that the Myanmar government had explicitly ordered discriminatory policies against Rohingya Muslims [Al Jazeera backgrounder]. The UN Human Rights Commission commended [JURIST report] the release of 56 prisoners of conscience in October 2013. HRW called on Myanmar authorities in January 2013 to drop charges against nine peaceful protesters in Rangoon.

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