Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters on Wednesday that the Burmese government is still restricting media freedom, and cited the case of a government ministry’s intention of filing a lawsuit against local journals for reporting about corruption within various ministries.
She made the statement at a press conference at her lakeside home in Rangoon following a meeting with the US envoy to Burma, Derek Mitchell.
By restricting media freedom, the government is preventing the country from developing, she said, adding that an announcement by the Ministry of Mining that it will sue The Voice journal is one of the ways that the government attempts to gag the media.
Suu Kyi said that media freedom is a necessity in Burma if there is to be rule of law.
Her comments come just a few days after the Ministry of Mining denied allegations in The Voice that it was involved in corruption.
According to state-run The New Light of Myanmar, the Ministry of Mining denied there was corruption in its ranks, and said legal proceedings would soon be launched against The Voice journal.
“Amid the country moving forward to full peace and development with discipline of democracy [sic], it tarnishes the dignity of the ministry and is not ethical for the media to write like this,” read a statement from the Ministry of Mining.
Based on a government audit report, The Voice and other Burmese media outlets reported cases of corruption within six key ministries with regard to the misuse of billions of kyat of government funds, as well as engaging in a variety of illegal transactions.
The six ministries singled out in the audit report were: the Ministry of Information; the Ministry of Cooperatives; the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation; the Ministry of Mining; and the Ministries of Industry (1) and (2). The Ministry of Mining is the only government department to have responded to the allegations at the present time.
Despite a statement by Tint Swe, the head of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, that the censorship bureau should be abolished, Rangoon-based journalists have reported that Burma’s censorship board has become more strict once again, censoring news about the controversial hydropower Myitsone dam project, the upcoming by-election, and Suu Kyi’s political campaigns.