BNI Calls For Freedom of the Press

By Network Media Group
Friday, February 12, 2021

Burma News International (BNI) issued a statement demanding for the military government to respect freedom of the press and not block access to information that reporters need by shutting down the Internet, reducing bandwidth and banning social media.

“It’s really difficult to get information for news sources,” said Nan Pawt Gay, the chair of BNI’s Policy Affair Committee and the founder and editor-in-chief for Karen News.

“Another thing we’re facing when preparing our news reports is its really difficult to communicate because the internet speed is too slow.”

In the ethnic areas of the country, its necessary to use a VPN to access the Internet, reducing speed, she explained. Its difficult to read news from other groups, and they can’t send or receive audio files.

The same day the Tatmadaw seized control of the country on February 1 it shutdown TV networks, and for awhile internet and phone services. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were eventually banned. The Internet was shut down again for about 48 hours on February 6 after protests broke out in Yangon and Mandalay.

Media outlets like Mizzima TV, DVB, SKYNET and others haven’t been allowed to broadcast.

DVB has reportedly been able to get around the shutdown by broadcasting on satellite but it can’t run any advertisements.

Although many of the online media groups can still report the news, Nan Pawt Gay told NMG there’s a lot of fake news circulating and reporters need to be careful. But with the reduced bandwidth, checking information is tedious and time consuming. Additionally, many sources don’t want to speak to journalists.

“Politicians are especially cautious about expressing their opinions at this moment. Sometimes they don’t answer when we call them,” she said.

At the same time, the military government continues to arrest politicians from National League for Democracy and people protesting against the coup.

In the last week, police have shot at protesters so reporters who are covering these stories need to take care of their safety and avoid getting arrested, Nan Pawt Gay told NMG.

“I encourage all reporters to have a visible press card on their body or wear a hat with press on it when covering protests because now it is a dangerous time.”

BNI, an ethnic media network of sixteen newsgroups reporting on Burma, which includes Karen News and NMG, was founded in 2003.