Don't call it a coup, Myanmar military leaders warn media

Demonstrators hold a placard with an image of Myanmar military junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Yangon on Feb 12, 2021.
Demonstrators hold a placard with an image of Myanmar military junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Yangon on Feb 12, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

YANGON (BLOOMBERG) - Myanmar's military leaders aren't happy with the choice of words used to describe this month's coup.

After the state of emergency that was "in accordance" with the constitution, some media are using "incorrect words" such as coup and referring to the military as junta or regime, the Ministry of Information said in a statement to the Myanmar Press Council on Friday (Feb 12).

Inaccurate usage could be "acts of instigation that may arouse civil unrest," it said. It's also against publishing laws, the ministry said.

On Feb 1, the military - known as the Tatmadaw - detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders, declared a state of emergency for a year and voided her party's landslide November election victory.

Ms Suu Kyi urged the country's 55 million people to oppose the army's move, calling it "an attempt to bring the nation back under the military dictatorship."

The Biden administration was quick to denounce the coup and implement sanctions against its leaders.

Thousands of protesters have been in the streets in defiance of a military order, demanding the release of political leaders including Ms Suu Kyi. The army has responded by detaining more of her aides.

Earlier this week, the junta proposed a cyber security law that could see social media users fined or jailed for posts containing what it construes as "misinformation or disinformation that causes public panic."

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party said the cyber security law is another attempt by the junta to limit freedom of speech and access to the internet.

The Myanmar Computer Federation, the largest private sector technology organisation, and affiliated groups said they strongly disagree to the enactment of the law, citing a lack of public consultations and insufficient time to give expert input to the ministry.

At least 120 technology companies in Myanmar issued a statement on Saturday to denounce the cyber security bill, which they said "violates the basic principles of digital rights, privacy and other human rights."

"Given the current complex political situation, a regime fast-tracking bill is in violation with the fundamentals of the Constitution and will not create any positive values for the society," the companies said.