A court hearing on Wednesday resulted in Zaw’s release from Insien prison in Yangon after a judge announced all charges against him would be dropped because he was doing his job at the time of his arrest. Leaving prison, he was taken home by his brothers and friend, looking ‘visibly thinner than before his arrest’.
Ian Phillips, the AP vice president for international news said they were “deeply relieved that AP journalist Thein Zaw has been freed from prison in Myanmar”. Zaw told the AP "I'm looking forward to meeting my family members,” and “I'm sorry for some colleagues who are still in prison."
Zaw was taken into custody in Yangon on February 27 after being charged under the country’s public order law for allegedly “causing fear, spreading false news or agitating directly or indirectly a government employee”. Myanmar authorities detained ten journalists across February 27 and 28 who were covering protests against the military coup. Myanmar’s public order law was hastily amended last month, when the military junta broadened its scope and increased the maximum prison sentence from two to three years.
On Wednesday, authorities also released more than 600 demonstrators who were arrested during the brutal crackdown. The move can be seen as a ‘conciliatory gesture’ from the military, in attempts to appease protestors. The detainment of protests has been a hallmark of the military takeover, with BCC News reporting at least 40 journalists arrested since the February 1 coup.
The IFJ said: “Journalists must be afforded the right to work safely and freely instead of being arrested for simply doing their job. Press freedom is vital in times of political conflict however the continual arrest of journalists in Myanmar signals a disregard by the Myanmar military-junta for the rights of media workers and democracy. The release of AP journalist Thein Zaw is a positive development and the IFJ urge the Myanmar military to ensure the release of the remaining journalists still detained.”