Monday, May 20, 2024

Media Manipulation and Political Agendas: The Battle for Truth in Myanmar

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World Press Freedom Day was marked on May 3rd, during which the international community condemned the Myanmar military junta for its continued repression of independent media outlets and threats against journalists.

It has been reported that since February 1, 2021, the military junta has arrested more than 80 journalists, with over 40 of them still in detention. Thus, it makes Myanmar the world’s second most dangerous place for journalists.

Since they took power in 2021, the military junta has implemented severe measures to suppress independent media, including the cancellation of licenses, the seizure of media offices, and shutting them down. Moreover, journalists who dare to report independently are subjected to intimidation and threats, creating a climate of fear and censorship.

Therefore, the military junta has undoubtedly breached the universal human rights although it has signed the international conventions on the protection and prevention of human rights violations.

Of course, in a truly democratic country, journalists should have the right to report without fear of reprisal, protected by the rule of law. However, in authoritarian regimes like Myanmar, press freedom has been systematically undermined by the junta’s oppressive tactics. For example, the military junta exploits state-controlled media to disseminate propaganda, with leaders like Min Aung Hlaing and spokesperson Zaw Min Tun using official channels to manipulate public perception.

Regarding this, psychologists argue that the consistent use of such behavior has the potential to legitimize and sustain additional authoritarian actions.

While the junta uses media as a propaganda tool, it is vital to recognize that opposition organizations also use media to further their own ambitions. This dynamic converts the media into a biased tool serving competing interests, exposing the public to misinformation.

This means that both the military junta and the National Unity Government (NUG) are guilty of this manipulation because they undermine the public’s trust and exacerbate societal divisions.

An example of this is the failure to fulfill the NUG’s commitment to assist ethnic armed groups in their pursuit of federal democracy.

For instance, the NUG’s pledges to support ethnic armed groups (EAOs) in achieving federal democracy, however, these have not materialized as promised. Instead, their declarations have led groups like the Karen and Chin to face heightened challenges including internal conflicts. These cases reveal the severe consequences due to the false information disseminated by the NUG.

Again, the NUG’s assertion is that armed struggle is the only viable solution to the country’s crisis. This shows their disregard for peaceful political negotiations and human rights principles.

However, it goes without saying that the misuse of information has far-reaching consequences for the entire population.

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