Myanmar: Military junta intensifies hostility towards media workers

Myanmar’s military junta is increasingly arresting media workers, a sign of the gradual deterioration of press freedom in the country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the repeated and increasingly hostile acts of Myanmar’s military junta towards media workers, which are a blatant attempt to supress an objective and independent press in Myanmar.

Journalists Sithu Aung Myint (left) and Htet Htet Khine were arrested on 15 August, 2021. Credit: RSF Twitter

On September 10, the State Administration Council increased the charges against Frontier Myanmar and Voice of America political reporter Sithu Aung Myint. Myint, along with Htet Htet Khine, a freelance producer for BBC Media Action, have been detained in Insein Prison since their apprehension and arrest on August 15.

Myint has had an additional charge levelled under Article 505(b) which criminalises speech that could “cause fear or alarm in the public” within Myanmar’s penal law. She was initially charged with the dissemination of false news, a crime under Article 505(a) of Myanmar’s penal code. A sedition charge, under Article 124(a) of the penal code, was also made but has since been withdrawn. Myint has reported on criticism of Myanmar’s military junta.

Khine was charged with harbouring Myint, an accused criminal at that stage, and for alleged ties to a shadow National Unity Government under Section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act. Moreover, Myo Thant, former Mizzima news editor-in-chief, was arrested by the State Administration Council on September 15. A justification for his arrest has not been disclosed. This follows the confirmation of photojournalist Ma Thuzar’s arrest by Myanmar police on September 5. 

Myanmar’s junta has repeatedly publicised its opposition to independent media during its administration. The Deputy Information Minister, Major General Zaw Min Tin said on July 12, “These media outlets are a danger to the people and traitors to the state, as they are broadcasting fake news and incorrect opinions.” 

The likelihood of arrest is an “ever-present” consideration for Myanmar’s media workers, according to Aye Chan Naing, chief-editor of independent Myanmar broadcaster DVB News. Recent reporting indicates that 98 journalists have been arrested by the junta since the coup on February 1, 2021. 

The IFJ said: “We condemn the punitive actions by the Myanmar military junta aimed at curtailing a strong and independent press. The IFJ calls for the immediate release of Sithu Aung Myint, Htet Htet Khine, and Myo Thant as well as for the release of all other media workers enduring detainment in Myanmar; arbitrary detentions must end so that the people of Myanmar can begin to create a safe and secure country.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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