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Myanmar political party withdraws election broadcast after censorship by authorities

REPORT-3-ENG-22-09-2020-Myanmar

Myanmar’s Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) has cancelled its election broadcasts on state-owned media after facing censorship.

From Sept. 8 to Nov. 6, political parties running in the election are allowed to deliver campaign speeches and explain their policies in 15-minute broadcasts. So far, 28 parties have taken part.

Under campaign broadcast rules, parties must submit a script for the broadcast for the approval of the Union Election Commission (UEC).

The DPNS chairman, U Aung Moe Zaw, said comments on children’s rights and controversial business projects affecting citizens, such as the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Region, and the use of the word “oppressed” were ordered to be removed by the UEC from the broadcast. The DPNS broadcast was due to be aired on Tuesday.

The DPNS had highlighted child labor, mortality among the under-fives, children not going to school, the numbers not in education and poverty.

“A politician shall not have his or her political view. What a sad story! Therefore, I decided not to broadcast my censored speech,” U Aung Moe Zaw posted on Facebook on Sunday.

The party’s vice-chairwoman, Daw Noe Noe Htet San, told The Irrawaddy that the UEC’s censorship harms freedom of expression.

She said even under the previous, quasi-civilian Union Solidarity and Development Party government, the DPNS did not face such limitations.

“The word ‘oppressed’ is not allowed. And the facts about the children’s rights are not allowed. There is legal oppression and also in other areas. We used the word as we need to fix those issues,” Daw Noe Noe Htet San said.

“We will make our campaign speech available through other channels,” she added.

The party is contesting 16 out of 1,171 constituencies in the Nov. 8 poll.

The campaign broadcast rules prohibit any content that is deemed to disturb the rule of law, cause instability, defame the state or military, incite the civil service not to perform its duty and sparks hatred among different groups.

Human rights groups have called for the restrictions to be relaxed ahead of the election.

“The Union Election Commission should revise the broadcast rules to ensure that voters are able to hear opposition parties on state-owned media speaking freely about their policies and platforms,” said Linda Lakhdhir,. Human Rights Watch’s Asia legal adviser.

“Robust political debate lies at the heart of the electoral process, and Myanmar’s voters are entitled to hear all political views, including those critical of the government in power and its policies.”