Myanmar Military Cracks Down on Journalists with Arrests and Lawsuits

By The Irrawaddy 2 March 2021

YANGON — Myanmar’s security forces forcibly arrested a reporter from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) on Monday night from his home in Myeik, Tanintharyi Region, where he has been reporting on anti-regime protests.

A DVB live-stream at around 10:20pm showed police and military personnel surrounded his home and shouting at him to come out. When Ko Kaung Myat Naing, also known as Ko Aung Kyaw, asked whether they had a warrant, they fired into the air. When Ko Aung Kyaw asked them to remain peaceful, the security forces started throwing stones at his house.

Ko Aung Kyaw can be heard shouting that a stone injured his head and appealing to neighbors for help before the security forces break into his house and arrest him. The arrest came after he live-streamed police and soldiers shooting at houses and destroying furniture and other possessions in their ongoing crackdown. He also reported that how a pregnant woman in Myeik was beaten and her home looted by the security forces.

DVB chief editor U Aye Chan Naing told The Irrawaddy that
before Ko Aung Kyaw’s arrest, the security forces threatened his neighbors with guns to turn off their lights and stay silent.

U Aye Chan Naing said the editorial team is trying to find Ko Aung Kyaw’s whereabouts and if he faces charges.

DVB said it has employed a lawyer and written to the International Committee of the Red Cross for help.

U Aye Chan Naing said: “The regime does not want to let people know its brutal acts. That’s why it is arresting journalists.”

Two detained reporters, Ma Kay Zon Nway from Myanmar Now and Ko Aung Ye Ko from 7Day News, have been charged with incitement under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code which carries up to three years’ imprisonment, according to Daw Nilar Khaing, their lawyer.

Both were arrested on Saturday while covering protests in Yangon.

Daw Nilar Khaing said she will ask to meet the reporters, adding that their relatives are not allowed to see them because of COVID-19 rules.

She said the court hearings will be conducted online due to COVID-19.

Since the military takeover on Feb. 1, the security forces have detained at least 29 journalists, of whom four have been charged under 505(a) and six are being held without facing any charges.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Myanmar’s junta must release all journalists detained while doing their jobs and allow reporters to cover protests without fear of reprisals.

Shawn Crispin, the NGO’s regional representative, said: “Myanmar authorities must release all journalists being held behind bars and stop threatening and harassing reporters for merely doing their jobs of covering anti-coup street protests.

“Myanmar must not return to the past dark ages where military rulers jailed journalists to stifle and censor news reporting,” he said.

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