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April 26, 2017

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Myanmar journalist jailed for trespassing while writing story

YANGON, Myanmar -- A court in central Myanmar sentenced a journalist to one year in prison for trespassing and obstructing a civil servant while doing a story on education, a spokesman for his company said Tuesday, in the latest sign the country's media climate is worsening.

Zaw Pe, a video journalist for Democratic Voice of Burma, was covering a Japanese-funded scholarship program in Magwe region when he was arrested after interviewing students and filming inside an education department office, said Khin Maung Soe, a DVB spokesman.

Zaw, 41, also got into an argument with an official inside the education department in Magwe region and was charged with obstructing a civil servant from carrying out his duties.

Myanmar only recently emerged from a half-century of military rule, and democratic reforms implemented since a nominally civilian government was installed in 2011 have been widely praised, including the freeing up of its repressive press. But media watchdogs say reporters still face intimidation, arrests and criminal charges, and that the media climate appears to be worsening.

"Media freedom is not just about the lifting of censorship," said Khin Maung Soe. "If journalists are not allowed to do interviews freely, denied access to information and face criminal charges for their journalistic activities, we cannot call it freedom of press."

Several other journalists have come under fire in recent months.

Four reporters and chief executive of the private weekly journal, "Unity," face up to 14 years in prison for violating the country's state secret's act following publication of a story about an alleged chemical weapons factory in Myanmar.

And, a young journalist working for the private "Daily Eleven" newspaper was given three months in jail in December for trespassing, use of abusive language and defamation while working on a story about corruption.

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