Myanmar’s military junta is increasingly using state media outlets for propaganda purposes while it continues its crack down on independent news outlets, several journalists have told Radio Free Asia.
The junta has ramped up its use of its channel on the messaging app Telegram to distribute its information, according to the reporters. In addition, there are a number of pro-junta Telegram channels that then amplify the junta’s propaganda.
“People need to be vigilant against fake news,” Sein Win, newsroom management editor for Mizzima Media. “It is a traditional and common strategy of the military since long, long ago. People might be trapped in their propaganda.”
The junta has revoked the licenses of four publishers and two printing houses since the junta seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat.
Some 14 media outlets including Mizzima, Democratic Voice of Burma and The Irrawaddy have also lost their licenses.
Last month, junta troops raided and shuttered independent news outlet Development Media Group in Rakhine state, arresting one reporter and a guard. The news outlet covers armed conflict and human rights violations in the western state that borders Bangladesh.
But junta-controlled media such as Thazin FM continue to operate. Every Wednesday, the outlet broadcasts its “Public Voices Among Public” call-in program. Most of the callers are just parroting junta-approved talking points, several residents of the Yangon and Sagaing regions told RFA.
The general message repeated on the program is that the National Unity Government, or NUG, and the anti-junta People’s Defense Force paramilitaries are creating problems that worsen people’s lives.
The NUG is made up of leaders in the former civilian government and other anti-junta activists.
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Thazin FM also inserts a variety of songs that carry junta messages into the call-in program, a Khin-U township resident told RFA on condition of anonymity. But the propaganda won’t be enough to counteract what many people are experiencing, he said.
“We love to listen to a variety of music, including modern songs,” he said. “But actually, people are suffering various hardships in daily life.”
In June, junta chief Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing spoke about the need for more public interest and educational programs during visits to Thazin FM and the military-owned Myawaddy Television.
“The military council is preventing spread of accurate information to the world, to the people and to its forces by cracking down on independent media and by creating fake news,” said Nay Phone Latt, the spokesman for NUG’s Office of the Prime Minister. “In addition, they have developed fake media agencies to spread misinformation.”
Junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun didn’t immediately reply to RFA’s request for comment on the junta’s use of propaganda.
Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Matt Reed.