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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

‘Daily Eleven’ in military crosshairs for Kokang report

By Mratt Kyaw Thu @ Myanmar Times
The Tatmadaw has publicly condemned a report in Daily Eleven about alleged losses in the Kokang conflict, accusing the paper of breaking journalism ethics by publishing unverified information.
The media group has rejected the accusations, but apologised for publishing a screenshot of a photo purporting to show Tatmadaw soldiers who had been captured by Kokang rebels from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army without blurring the faces of the men.
The image was published with an article, “Unverified rumours have spread that a government regiment accidentally entered into Kokang territory on April 23”, on the cover of the daily’s April 25 edition.
The article featured multiple screenshots from the Facebook pages of Zhengyi Kokang and Ye Moe. Eleven said Zhengyi Kokang’s account is closely linked to the MNDAA, while Ye Moe is thought to be a former military officer.
But the Tatmadaw said in a statement, released by a newly formed military information team for “correct news” and published in state media yesterday, that the Daily Eleven story was based on unofficial reports from Facebook account and was unethical. It said the report had affected the reputation of the Tatmadaw.
Daily Eleven said in response it had only printed screenshots of photos on the Zhengyi Kokang page and had not used information from the account in its report.
The Tatmadaw has not issued any information in response to rumours of heavy losses on April 23. A spokesperson for the Myanmar Press Council (Interim) said no formal complaint had been received from the military over the Eleven report.
The complaint is the second to have been published by the information team in the past month, and suggests the military is becoming increasingly sensitive to critical reporting over its activities.
In March, the Tatmadaw complained about a cartoon in the Myanmar-language edition of The Myanmar Times that linked Kokang offensives to land confiscations. Management subsequently apologised for the cartoon.
The military has in the past shown a willingness to pursue criminal charges against journalists. In July 2014, five people from Unity journal were imprisoned for 10 years for a report on a supposed chemical weapons factory.
Press council vice president U Khin Maung Lay said journalists faced a “dilemma” when trying to cover armed conflict due to both the difficulty in verifying information and the threat of charges under the Unlawful Association Act if they contact rebel groups.
“When we meet Tatmadaw officers, including the Commander-in-Chief [Senior General] Min Aung Hlaing, we requested that the Tatmadaw establish a group or team to announce updated information. They didn’t do it yet, but now this so-called Tatmadaw information committee has appeared,” he said. “As long as the Tatmadaw and armed groups exist, we’re going to face these problems.”

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