Myanmar restricts journalists after photos show sleeping MPs

May 28, 2015, 4:01 AM

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Journalists were negotiating with Myanmar officials Thursday to restore their access to the Parliament chamber after being pushed out because pictures of snoozing lawmakers were published online.

Reporters in the capital, Naypyitaw, were told on Tuesday they would have to watch proceedings on TV from the corridor. The pictures of sleeping MPs was the main reason cited by Kyaw Soe, director general of the Union Parliament, which handles administrative duties.

Other embarrassing pictures have circulated showing lawmakers using iPad devices while in session. Another appeared to show an army representative leaning over to press a voting button for a missing lawmaker.

In a minor victory, the journalists were told they could occupy the upper floor of the chamber, but they were continuing to negotiate Thursday evening. While the new location could be sufficient for text reporters, it would give visual journalists only a distant, back view of the MPs. Officials offered to provide handout images instead, but independent media consider that unacceptable.

“The restriction is totally unacceptable. Press freedom is not guaranteed in the country but only in the hands of those in power. They can revoke press freedom any time they like,” Zaw Thet Htway, a former political prisoner and editor in chief of Tomorrow weekly journal.

Myanmar started moving from a half-century of military rule to democracy in 2011 and many of its political reforms, such as media freedom, have stalled. About 10 journalists have been jailed and nearly a dozen are facing trials.

The constitution also allots a quarter of the seats in Parliament to the military, a number that gives it veto power over constitutional amendments.

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Myanmar restricts journalists after photos show sleeping MPs