Myanmar: Free speech "voices" vital to democracy

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Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN File Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The government in Myanmar is being urged to examine what a UN human rights expert has labelled "its fear and opposition to critical and independent voices."

Yanghee Lee, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the country, said people exercising their right to free speech should be seen as vital partners, not threats.

Ms Lee has concluded a five-day visit to Myanmar which has been moving towards democracy following nearly five decades of military rule.

Dianne Penn reports.

The UN Special Rapporteur stressed that civil society, journalists and ordinary citizens are not threats to Myanmar's government.

Rather, she said, they should be seen as "partners in contributing to a robust democracy."

She urged the government "to reconsider its fear and opposition to critical and independent voices."

During her visit, Ms Lee noted continuing arrests of students, political activists, union leaders, community organizers and other members of civil society.

She also met with political prisoners in two jails.

Ms Lee said many of these people emphasized that they were not anti-government but simply wanted to bring about positive changes in their country.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 45″

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