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Suu Kyi fails to protect press freedom: Survey

Myanmar mine collapse claims 14 lives

May 05, 2018 00:00:00

KACHIN, May 04 (Reuters): Journalists in Myanmar believe their government is failing to defend media freedom despite the transition from harsh military rule to an elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a survey published to mark World Press Freedom Day on Thursday.

Activist group Free Expression Myanmar and its partner organisations interviewed 200 journalists between January and April, finding almost half believed they had less freedom as journalists than a year earlier.

"Journalists are frustrated by the government's failure to implement its election manifesto commitments to increase media freedom," the group said in a report on its survey.

Asked to rate the government's success on defending media freedom, 79 per cent of journalists questioned for the survey answered "low" or "very low."

The government's main spokesman, Zaw Htay, referred Reuters' questions about the survey results to the information ministry.

Reuters contacted three officials at the Ministry of Information, who all declined to comment and referred questions to other officials.

The military ruled Myanmar for nearly 50 years but handed over the reins of government to Nobel laureate Suu Kyi in early 2016. The military retains control of government ministries responsible for security, including interior and Defence.

Police arrested two Reuters reporters on Dec 12 and they face up to 14 years in prison under accusations they breached the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Meanwhile, a jade mine slag heap collapsed in northern Myanmar on Friday, killing at least 14 people, rescue officials said, the latest in a series of disasters to hit the largely unregulated gem industry.

Myanmar is a major gemstone producer and the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to tighten controls after a landslide in a jade mine killed more than 100 people in 2015 in Kachin state, the site of Friday's collapse.

Friday's accident happened in the early morning in the village of Wai Hka, when workers were scavenging through heaps of mining debris for discarded jade.

"I barely escaped... The soil bulk collapsed and killed people," said miner Min Naung, 30.

Many jade mines are owned by companies linked to leaders of the previous military government, ethnic armies and Chinese firms. Workers, many of them migrants from elsewhere in Myanmar, toil long hours in dangerous conditions and for little pay.

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