Burma

Myanmar Regime Jails Journalists for Incitement

By The Irrawaddy 2 June 2021

Two detained reporters in Myeik, Tanintharyi Region, were sentenced to two years for incitement by a court inside Myeik Prison on Wednesday.

Ko Aung Kyaw of DVB and Ko Zaw Zaw, a Mizzima News freelancer, were charged under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code after being arrested in March and April respectively.

The military regime revoked the operating licenses of both media agencies, along with three other media organizations in March, in response to their coverage of junta atrocities against protesters.

On May 12, the junta sentenced DVB reporter Ko Min Nyo to three years’ imprisonment in Pyay, Bago Region.

Junta forces detained Ko Aung Kyaw on March 1 at his home and he has been behind bars since then. Ko Zaw Zaw was detained on April 7 at his home.

Their relatives told The Irrawaddy that they will not appeal.

Ma Nay Chi, Ko Aung Kyaw’s wife, said: “He said he won’t appeal as there is no rule of law with a regime that arbitrarily arrests reporters, tortures them and blocks access to information.”

The family has not seen Ko Aung Kyaw as the hearings were conducted in a temporary court inside Myeik Prison.

“The hearing and trials under 505(a) are secretive. I didn’t have a chance to meet him even though we knew about the dates of the hearings and tried to join the court hearing,” said Ma Nay Chi.

Ko Aung Kyaw, a DVB reporter for six years, has a two-year-old daughter.

“My daughter always asks me when Papa will come back. She wants to see him,” said Ma Nay Chi.

“She would look for him when protests passed our home but now they have stopped she asks when he’ll come back. She says, ‘Why he doesn’t come home? Doesn’t he love me anymore?’”

The family of Ko Zaw Zaw said they have met him once on April 11 and only heard about the sentencing from lawyers representing political prisoners.

Ma Tin Tin Moe, the wife of Ko Zaw Zaw, heard the verdict was made inside Myeik Prison and her husband is in good health.

“We hope to visit him at the prison. He misses his young son and asked for his photo,” she said.

Ko Zaw Zaw, who has been a reporter for more than seven years, was a Mizzima freelancer for around two years.

According to Reporting ASEAN, 87 journalists from 38 news outlets are among the more than 5,500 people detained since the Feb. 1 coup. The vast majority, including 51 journalists, remain in detention amid widespread reports of torture and extrajudicial killings.

U Myint Kyaw from the Committee on Social Welfare for Journalists called the imprisonment of reporters a political punishment.

“Since 2017, after the case of the two Reuters journalists, there were no cases of journalists being jailed. But journalists are now facing arrest and trials. These verdicts are like punishing reporters for doing their job. It is political,” he said.


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