Myanmar Junta Continues to Detain Journalists

By The Irrawaddy 19 August 2021

Myanmar’s military junta continues its crackdown on journalists with arrests and lawsuits to silence independent coverage of its daily atrocities.

This week, two more journalists were detained, bringing the number of journalists and media staff detained since the February coup to 95.

The junta’s forces arrested freelance journalist and outspoken regime critic U Sithu Aung Myint and a reporter from BBC Media Action, the corporation’s international development charity, Ma Htet Htet Khine on August 15 from a hideout in Yangon.

According to Bahan Township police, the two were taken to a military interrogation center. No more information has been heard about them.

In April, U Sithu Aung Myint was charged under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code, which criminalizes spreading comments or false news that could cause fear or criminal offenses against government employees. It carries up to three years’ imprisonment.

On July 20, three women journalists – a mother and her two daughters – from the Shan State-based Thalwin Thwaychin news agency were detained at their homes in the state capital, Taunggyi. The daughters have been released but Mya Wunn Yan, chief editor of the agency, remains in custody.

The junta has targeted journalists with arrests, lawsuits, raids on newsrooms and violence. On Wednesday, at least 42 media staff were still behind bars, according to Reporting ASEAN, an independent regional news outlet.

Almost all detained journalists said they were interrogated, beaten and tortured. COVID-19 has spread rapidly in Myanmar’s crowded prisons, increasing dangers for all political prisoners.

Four media organizations, including The Irrawaddy, have been charged under Article 505(a) and eight firms have been banned.

On June 30 the junta’s Ministry of Information told the media to stop describing the military-appointed State Administration Council as a “junta” or face prosecution. It also warned foreign news agencies to cease using the terms “military council” or “military junta” and to stop “disseminating false news”.

The order said international media groups would face action “if they apply wrong usages, quote and exaggerate fake news and disseminate false information”.

“Myanmar is now one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists,” the Committee to Protect Journalists reported in July.

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