RSF open letter plea to Suu Kyi for Myanmar journalists’ freedom

RSF open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi … “How are we to understand the sentence passed on these two journalists at the start of the week? What credibility can the rule of law and judicial independence have in Myanmar after this farce?” Image: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/RSF

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Five days after Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison on a trumped-up charge, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has written to the head of Myanmar’s government asking her to end her deafening silence and to intercede on behalf of the two journalists.

READ MORE: Massacre in Myanmar – the Reuters investigation

This is the open letter:

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
State Counsellor
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of the President’s Office
of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
State Counsellor Office No 8
Naypyitaw, Myanmar

Paris, 6 September 2018

Dear State Counsellor,


An iniquitous sentence of seven years in prison on a trumped-up charge of violating the Official Secrets Acts was passed at the start of this week on Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two reporters with the Reuters news agency who have already spent nearly nine months in detention.

Their only crime was to investigate the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya civilians by members of Myanmar’s army. In the course of shedding light on the terrible reality of the ethnic cleansing carried out by the army and its auxiliaries in the north of Rakhine State, the news agency’s reporters discovered summary executions, mass graves, the torching of villages and systematic efforts to eliminate of all trace of the atrocities.

As you know, the two reporters were crudely framed by the police, as a police captain, Moe Yan Naing, acknowledged in court on 20 April. The thoroughness of their investigative reporting nonetheless forced the Tatmadaw, Myanmar armed forces, to recognise the reality of the Inn Dinn massacre and to sentence seven soldiers to 10 years in prison for their role.

We are deeply saddened by your only statement about the two journalists. In an interview for NHK in June, you simply said that “they were nor arrested for covering the Rakhine issue” but “because they broke the Official Secrets Act” and that it “will be up to judiciary, it is for the judiciary to decide.” Their innocence was nonetheless glaringly obvious.

RSF wrote to you on 7 September 2017 asking you to use your moral authority to ensure that journalists were free to work in Myanmar. Your response was silence. Your response to the appeals of Myanmar’s journalists and foreign journalists was silence. Your response to the international community’s appeals was silence.

How are we to understand the sentence passed on these two journalists at the start of the week? What credibility can the rule of law and judicial independence have in Myanmar after this farce? To those who have tried to raise the issue in your presence, you have responded with “fury,” as in January with former US diplomat Bill Richardson, one of your oldest supporters, who felt obliged to resign from your international panel of advisers after you described Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as “traitors.”

Were journalists traitors when they covered the military junta’s suppression of the 1988 democracy movement, in which you rose to political prominence? Were journalists traitors when they relayed your calls for democracy during the 15 years you spent under house arrest? Were journalists traitors when they hailed the advent of democracy with your party’s victory in 2015 and your appointment as head of government in 2016?

Awarded the Sakharov Prize in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, you have long been hailed as resolute advocate of democracy and you have defended what is one of its foundations with a great deal of vision. Speaking when you were released in 2010, you said, “the basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech.” The following year, you assured RSF of your commitment to press freedom.

Since the end of your time under house arrest, you have on several occasions said that you reject the status of icon and that you see yourself as a politician seeking concrete results for her people. We are aware of the political circumstances in Myanmar that force you to seek compromises with the Tatmadaw’s representatives.

But nothing, absolutely nothing, forces you, as the Union of Myanmar’s head of government, to observe this deafening silence. Nothing forces you to refer to journalists’ coverage of Rakhine State as “a huge iceberg of misinformation.” Nothing forces you to go down in history as someone who betrayed the ideals on which she built her reputation.

This is why we urge you to intercede immediately to obtain the release of these two Reuters journalists. One of your closest allies, President Win Myint, has the power to grant them a pardon.

You have the ability to take action today in support of the values that you defended with courage for so long.


Christophe Deloire
Reporters sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders / RSF
Paris, France

Nobel Peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi under fire for not condemning the Rohingya’s prosecution in Myanmar. In April 2017, she said: “I don’t think there is ethnic cleansing going on.” She also refused to allow UN investigators access to the region. Video: Al Jazeera

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Keith Rankin: Letter to Labour about Income Tax

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Keith Rankin: Letter to Labour about Income Tax

Economist Keith Rankin argues that if Labour is elected as the lead party of Government then it should embark on a brave “twenty-first century income tax” reform package.

Letter to Labour about Income Tax – By Keith Rankin.

As the fog clears, three options emerge for the 2017-2020 government:

·         conservative: National and New Zealand First (English or Peters as PM)

·         Peronista: Jacinda Ardern (as Evita) and Winston Peters (as Peron)

·         progressive: Labour, Green, Māori (Ardern as PM)

Whichever of these we get, I would like to see a government true to its parties’ philosophies, and with good twenty-first century income tax policies.

The progressive option is looking much more probable than at any other time since 1999. Jacinda Ardern can act now to make this outcome both more likely and more authentic.

Understanding the reality of the economic struggle of low- and middle-income households is critical. Among other things, these people need more money, unconditionally. No bureaucracy, no abatements. Unconditional benefits have always been delivered in liberal democracies through the income tax system. These tax benefits, in the past, have taken the form of allowances, exemptions and progressive graduations.

The Present

What can Labour announce this week, to replace the Budget 2017 income tax adjustments? It needs to do something in addition to extending existing bureaucratic benefits. A political party representing ordinary people, with a good ear for their people, would hear that the bureaucracy around the benefit system is even more frustrating than the penury of those benefits.

The following simple remedy will work for Labour in the 2017 election campaign:

·         Remove the 30% income tax bracket by joining it with the 33% bracket.

·         Reduce the rate on the first bracket from 10.5% to zero, and lower the threshold to $9,370.


This will give ‘tax cuts’ to everyone earning less than $70,000 per year, while leaving all persons earning more than $70,000 at 2017 levels of taxation. More specifically, it would give everyone earning from $14,000 to $48,000 an extra $12.69 per week of unconditional cash, over and above any other benefit increases Labour would like to provide. This would make it a policy – albeit a tentative policy – that acknowledges everyone on struggle street.

Perhaps more importantly, as a guide to future income tax policy, please note the following simple tax formula:

  • weekly after-tax personal income equals 67% of gross earnings, plus $175

This formula is the present reality for every New Zealander earning $70,000 or more per year. The simple tax change suggested above extends that formula to every New Zealander earning $48,000 or more per year, while delivering symbolically important unconditional tax benefits to every New Zealander earning less than $48,000 per year. Further, it does nothing to antagonise anybody. It raises nobody’s income tax, from 2017 levels.

Let’s do this.

The Near Future

By following the same principle, the other middle tax bracket at present (the 17.5% bracket) can also be eliminated (for example in Budget 2019). This would mean having a zero-tax bracket upto incomes of $27,500 and a 33% marginal rate on all income in excess of $27,500. (This would also displace the present Independent Earner Tax Credit.)

As a result, everybody earning above $27,500 would be subject to the simple tax formula above. This would deliver significant unconditional tax benefits to people whose annual incomes are in the $20,000 to $40,000 range; benefits to the precariat, Labour’s new natural constituency.

Just Beyond the Near Future

As productivity increases progressively, the ratio of capital income (income arising from what we own) to labour income (income arising from what we do) must increase. So, say in Budget 2021, raise the tax rate from 33% to 35%, and raise the threshold from $27,500 to $32,000. The simple tax formula, which would apply to all persons earning over $32,000 per year, would become:

·         weekly after-tax personal income equals 65% of gross earnings, plus $215

Further, extend this simple tax formula to all independent people under 25 years of age, displacing youth benefits, student allowances, and student loan living allowances. (Young adults with dependent children or with disabilities would continue to be eligible for indexed Work and Income benefits. Eligibility for accommodation benefits would not change.)

It’s not rocket science. It is the twenty-first century. Let’s do these, one simple step at a time.