IFJ & SEAJU call for investigation into journalist murder in Myanmar

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) in calling for a thorough investigation into the murder of a journalist detained by the Burmese Army in Myanmar early last month.

The IFJ has strongly condemned the involvement of the military in the murder of Aung Kyaw Naing in Kyaikmayaw in the south eastern province of Mon State in Myanmar. News of the murder was finally revealed a week ago yet the journalist was shot weeks earlier on October 4 and later buried.

In the latest developments, police have now been ordered to exhume the body of the murdered journalist in Shwewarchaung Village.

Aung Kyaw Naing, a 49-year-old freelance journalist commonly known as Par Gyi, is reported to have regularly worked with reporters in Mon State on stories about ethnic issues along the Burma-Thai border. Par Gyi is said to have been a former democracy activist who also once worked as a bodyguard for Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reports suggest that Aung Kyaw Naing was arrested by the army on September 30 after photographing clashes between the military and the rebel Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA). It is believed he was detained for interrogation and questioning on the whereabouts of DKBA (Democratic Karen Benevolent Army) units. He was allegedly returning from DKBA-controlled area when he was detained.

According to a statement from the Burmese Army, the journalist was in the custody of an unnamed ‘roving battalion’ looking for DKBA  rebels, when he tried to ‘seize a gun from a guard and run away; then he was shot dead by the guard’ at around 7.40pm on October 4.

Before the Army confirmed the death, “false information had been circulating online for several days, including photos of members of the DBKA who falsely identified the journalist as an active member of the armed group,” said SEAJU.

Yesterday, on Monday, November 3, police in Myanmar were ordered to exhume the body of. The order followed a statement by President Thein Sein last week which called for Myanmar’s National Human Rights Commission to investigate the killing. The police have said military representatives, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, and legal and medical personnel would witness the exhumation, along with police officials.

SEAJU and IFJ call on Myanmar President Thein Sein to order an immediate and credible investigation into the murder of Aung Kyaw Naing and bring those responsible to justice.

SEAJU said: “The attempt to cover up his murder echoes similar methods that have been brought into play throughout the region, where critical media are often depicted as obstacles to progress or even ‘enemies of the state’.”

“We call on our brothers and sisters in the Myanmar media community to stand firm against all attempts to take back the freedoms you and your people have so bravely fought for and declare our complete solidarity with you.”

The IFJ Asia Pacific said: “The IFJ calls for a full and thorough investigation into this atrocity, which indicates an attempt to not only silence the media but to also bury the evidence in a most brutal manner. For all the victories for Myanmar’s media, this horrendous murder shows the challenges facing journalists working on the most critical and controversial fringes, those attempting report on ethnic tensions and issues still evident in the country.”

The IFJ said this latest incident comes at a sensitive time for Myanmar as the government prepares to host US President Barack Obama at a regional summit later this month.

The IFJ has called on President Thein Sein to ensure complete transparency and access to the media in reporting on the case and to ensure the facts leading up to the murder of Par Gyi are fully revealed.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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