Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Wednesday an escalation in the repression of opposition critics by the Myanmar authorities, and urged the government to take steps to protect freedom of expression.
The organisation urged the government, led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to reject legislation inherited from the previous government - made up of ex-generals of the last military junta - that criminalises opposition views, even those expressed peacefully.
"Though Burma's new government includes more than 100 former political prisoners, it has done little to eliminate the laws used to prosecute peaceful expression," said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director Brad Adams said in a statement. "Instead, during the government's first year there was an escalation in prosecutions of peaceful political speech", he added.
The organisation cited, among others, the cases of two executives of the Eleven Media group, accused of defamation after reporting a corruption case involving a senior official of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Suu Kyi's party.
According to HRW, the government has used "particularly aggressive" defamation laws, which can carry sentences of up to 3 years in prison, with at least 40 cases in the first eight months in power, compared to just 7 in the previous two years.
"The Burmese people expected the NLD government to bring an end to this kind of repression, not add to the ranks of political prisoners," Adams said.
Myanmar was governed by military regimes from General Ne Win's coup in 1962 until 2011, when a transition period began that allowed the democratic movement led by Suu Kyi to win the elections and govern.