Myanmar leader warns media over religious violence

Myanmar’s reformist president has warned that newly-won media freedoms could be curtailed if stability is threatened by religious bloodshed shaking the former military-ruled country. Thein Sein, whose administration has been accused of failing to stem two years of sporadic anti-Muslim violence, vowed ‘zero tolerance’ against the perpetrators of fighting in the second largest city Mandalay that left two dead last week. But he also fired a shot across the bows of the media, after inflammatory material posted online was blamed for stoking the unrest.

‘We have attained one of the highest levels of press freedom in Southeast Asia, with the right to speak and write freely, because of political reform which is crucial in the transition process,’ the former general said in a speech published by state media on Tuesday. ‘However, if media freedom threatens national security instead of helping the nation, we warn that we will take action under existing laws,’ he added. The latest unrest broke out on July 1 after an accusation of a rape of a Buddhist woman by two Muslim men from a local tea shop was spread on social media websites, prompting a crowd of hundreds to gather near the business, hurling stones and damaging property.
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