Press freedom yet to be completely restored in Myanmar, says country’s first Pulitzer winner

Esther Htusan, a journalist from Kachin State in Myanmar was among the four-member team of Associated Press journalists who has won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism for a series of investigative stories that led to the release of over 2,000 people.

Shillong | Updated: April 23, 2016 8:16:49 am
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Three weeks after the first civilian elected government took over in Myanmar after a gap of over 50 years, freedom of the press has yet to be fully restored in the country, Esther Htusan, the first Myanmarese journalist who has won a Pulitzer Prize earlier this week said here on Friday.

“Yes, we have got the first democratically elected civilian government in place a few weeks ago. We are already beginning to feel the change, the difference between being governed by a military and an elected civilian government. But there is still a long way to go. For instance, freedom of speech, of expression and of the press, which were either restricted or curtailed by the military government, is yet to be 100 per cent restored,” Htusan, who was here to take part in a two-day Indo-Myanmar Media Dialogue, said.

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Esther Htusan, a journalist from Kachin State in Myanmar was among the four-member team of Associated Press journalists who has won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism for a series of investigative stories that led to the release of over 2,000 people who were kept as slaves in Thai and Indonesian fishing industry for several years. The stories “freed 2,000 slaves, brought the perpetrators to justice and inspired reforms,” the Pulitzer announcement had said.

“While democracy has been restored in my country, it will take time for the freedom of expression and speech to be fully restored. The previous military regime had amended laws according to its convenience and requirement. Even now, people are being arrested for passing social media critical and funny remarks against the military,” Htusan told The Indian Express.

At least five persons were arrested for Facebook posts recently, she said.

Appreciating the fact that the new civilian government had recently released five journalists who were imprisoned by the military regime a few years ago, Htusan said the media fraternity in Myanmar expected Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to bring about drastic Constitutional changes to ensure the right to freedom of expression. “I think it will take some time. There are so many things that require to be undone by the NLD government,” she said.

“The people have high expectations from the new government. They blindly believe in Aung San Suu Kyi. The people immediately want two or three things, economic growth and stability, restoration of peace, and an end to the civil war. Of course there is no second opinion that the Constitution needs to be amended in a big way,” she said.

“India should be more interactive with Myanmar on most issues. Personally I was a bit disappointed when the first person to have landed in Naypyitaw right after the new government took charge was the Chinese foreign minister. The people expected the Indian foreign minister there. India has to change her attitude” Htusan said.

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