In the latest sign that the Myanmar regime is intensifying its crackdown on journalists, three reporters from a local newspaper were detained by the military this week and are being kept at a military interrogation center in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.
Male journalists Ah Je, 22, and Christopher, 23, were arrested by the military on April 13 and female journalist Ma Myo Myat Myat Pan, 22, was arrested by the military after a house raid on April 14. All three work for the Myitkyina Journal, a local independent weekly that has been tirelessly covering the regime’s crackdown on protesters in the state since the Feb. 1 coup.
“Since their arrests by the regime, they have been at the military interrogation center. It has been four days. They are not allowed to meet family members. I am worried they are being tortured by the military,” Seng Mai, the editor-in-chief of the Myitkyina Journal, told The Irrawaddy.
According to Seng Mai, the military arrested Christopher first while he was on his way home on April 13. Later, he was beaten by soldiers and forced to call Ah Je and tell him to come to the same location. At 6:30 p.m. on April 14, police and soldiers arrested Ma Myo Myat Myat Pan at her home. They also seized a laptop and documents.
“We are doing our job. They were the most hardworking. They always stayed on the frontline and witnessed almost all of the military’s crackdowns on anti-coup protesters in Myitkyina,” Seng Mai said.
“I am worried that they face a life-threatening situation in the detention center,” Seng Mai added.
Two journalists from Myitkyina-based Kachinwave and 74 Media were arrested in the town on March 29 while covering a crackdown on anti-regime protesters. Later, they were sued by the regime under Article 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code. Under the broad new provision adopted by the junta, anyone who makes comments that “cause fear,” or who spreads “false news” or “agitates directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee,” faces up to three years in prison.
Since the military takeover, the regime has targeted journalists in an effort to suppress coverage of its lethal crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters. Following the coup, the junta revoked the licenses of Myanmar Now, 7Day News, Mizzima, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and Khit Thit Media, and raided some media offices. Almost all journalists in the country are now working in hiding.
According to the United Nations, at least 71 journalists have been arrested by the military since the Feb. 1 coup, with more than half of them still detained. At least 23 journalists have been sued by the military under various charges, mostly Article 505(a).
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