Detained Journalists ‘Didn’t Break the Law’

By Thu Thu Aung 9 August 2017

YANGON — A Myanmar National Human Right Commission (MNHRC) member who met with three detained journalists from The Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in northern Shan State’s Hsipaw Prison said they had not broken the law, according to their accounts.

Commissioner U Yu Lwin Aung said he met with Lawi Weng, also known as U Thein Zaw, of The Irrawaddy, and U Aye Nai and U Pyae Phone Aung of DVB at the prison on Wednesday.

He said he spent nearly six hours there, interviewing the journalists separately about their case.

An MNHRC team has been on tour in northern Shan State for the purpose of exploring prison reform, and the meeting with the detained journalists was part of their agenda, according to U Yu Lwin Aung.

He told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that he was informed the three journalists went to Namhsan by showing their journalist ID cards and passing through the security gates toward the area. While in Namhsan, they made contact with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and covered a drug-burning event hosted by the ethnic armed group.

“They said Namhsan is not a prohibited town by any law. There were administration members, teachers, doctors, and locals from the area attending the anti-drug ceremony by the TNLA,” said U Yu Lwin Aung.

On their way back from the event on June 26, the journalists were arrested and prosecuted by the Myanmar Army, accused of having violated the Unlawful Associations Act. The military suggested that they had connections with the TNLA, which has not yet signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement in the government’s peace process.

Their requests for bail were denied during their second trial session last week.

The Commissioner said he would forward his findings as soon as possible for the consideration of other MNHRC members in the Yangon head office.

The seven members of the MNHRC will decide which government ministry or office they will report to after a discussion is held about the commission’s position on the case. ​