The right to freedom of expression is fundamental to democracy. If it is not respected, protected and fulfilled, democracy cannot work. Myanmar is trying to become a democracy. It is not the first state to do so, and can learn from the experiences of other democratising states –near and far– and look to changing its laws, policies and practices to bring the country in line with international law.
This project brings together some of the most respected and dedicated people in Myanmar to build an agenda for change: a civil-society action plan to develop a legislative framework that promotes freedom of expression.
By the end of this initial project, we hope to have together created a strong group of dedicated people that can –together and apart– work towards a common goal.
We will have built a broad plan of action together, including recommendations, regarding which laws and policies need to change, and will have agreed an advocacy strategy for how to change them, over the next five years.
ARTICLE 19 brings to this group experience from many states worldwide which have gone through similar processes of democratisation. While the problems and solutions are different in every state, we have worked together with civil society in the former Soviet Union, the emerging African and Middle East democracies, and countries across South and Southeast Asia. At the time of print, ARTICLE 19 is working simultaneously in Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Libya, Mexico, Russia, Senegal, Somalia and Tunisia.
Over the past 25 years, ARTICLE 19 has also been at the heart of strengthening international law, ensuring that it sets a good example for states to follow when protecting the right to freedom of expression. It is this experience that ARTICLE 19 brings to the group.
The paper briefly looks at the key laws in Myanmar that affect people’s freedom to seek and share information and ideas – whether that is through the media, in everyday conversations, on the Internet, or in demonstrations in the street.
For each law, ARTICLE 19 briefly points out where the main obstacles are to protecting and promoting the right to freedom of expression. It explains what international human rights law requires the government to do – or not do – in a certain area, in order to respect, protect and fulfil the right to freedom of expression.