YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar authorities said Tuesday they would take legal action against a newspaper for an interview describing the words of the president as “absurd and insane”, amid mounting international concern over backtracking on press freedoms.
The Myanmar Herald Journal, renowned for its criticism of the government and ministers in the former junta-run country, was accused of having “tarnished the image and rights” of President Thein Sein, according to a statement from the information ministry published in state-backed media.
The decision to sue the paper, which authorities said followed a process of mediation by the interim press council, comes as media freedoms fall under the spotlight before a visit by US President Barack Obama next week.
His visit is likely to highlight concerns over journalist arrests and the death in army custody of a freelance reporter late last month.
According to the information ministry, the Myanmar Herald Journal ran an interview in which the subject described the president’s words as “gibberish, irrational, cheap and inconsistent… completely nonsensical, absurd and insane”.
Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government, which came to power in 2011 at the end of outright military rule, has ushered in sweeping press reforms, including the release of jailed journalists and scrapping draconian pre-publication censorship, which once applied to everything from fairy tales to the lottery.