Special Issue: ‘(Re)Iterations, Transgressions, Recognition: Politics and Practices of Media Policies in South Asia’
  • ISSN: 2516-3523
  • E-ISSN: 2516-3531


The 1 February 2021 coup d’etat in Myanmar did more than force the country’s journalists and other media makers to operate under extreme conditions to continue their work, and win back the space for freedom of expression and the press lost to them. The coup also provoked a massive cultural shift, and the country’s independent media are playing a key role. After a half century of military dictatorship, a decade of much-lauded democratic opening (2011–20) prior to the coup had ushered in game-changing developments to the media landscape. Yet since the coup, the junta and its appointed State Administrative Council (SAC) have inflicted the kinds of brutalities in response to peaceful protesters that the military has used for decades with impunity against the country’s ethnic minorities, all justified, they claim, to ensure ‘the rule of law’ and ‘law and order’. The SAC has also attempted complete control over Myanmar’s media, cutting off at various times nearly all internet and mobile access. This included Facebook, Twitter and other apps, thereby silencing the country’s independent media or forcing them into forms of self-censorship, hiding or exile, and allowing only a military-controlled narrative of unfolding events through military- and state-run media. Yet the independent media sector has not only survived, it has proven to be a key voice in efforts to thwart the regime’s attempts to control public mediated space. This article explores the various approaches to media policy-making in Myanmar during the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the coup, as employed by the military, the elected but later overthrown National League for Democracy government, various key components of the pro-democracy forces, and international aid and advocacy organizations working to increase freedom of expression and the press. It draws from interviews with key media policy-makers, journalists, academics and free expression advocates, and analyses of content from the (now) junta-controlled and other key documents. It explores the various approaches taken and lessons learned by key stakeholders working to control or change public discourse and freedom of expression and the press in the country.


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