Than was one of 14 journalists released on June 30 from detention across Myanmar. He was arrested on May 25 on charges under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code and held for 36 days. He is currently being held at the Maubin City Police State, according to the Ayeyarwady Times’ editor-in-chief, Salai Thant Sin.
On the morning of his arrest on June 10, Than was reporting on a bombing by unidentified perpetrators in Maubin.
It is unclear when Than was released from detention and whether the Section 505(a) charges against him were officially dropped. Radio Free Asia reports that 26 reporters are currently in hiding due to warrants being put out for their arrest. Many others have been forced to leave their homes and seek asylum with friends or family because the military have allegedly raided their homes.
Section 505(a) of the Penal Code is a broad and vague law that effectively allows the military to arrest journalists for doing their jobs. The law criminalises all attempts to “hinder, disturb, damage the motivation, discipline, health and conduct of the military personnel and government employees” and these subjective phrases can and have been used to quell dissent during Myanmar’s civil war.
Since the start of the military coup in February 2021, 89 domestic and international reporters have been arrested and 37 are still detained, according to Reporting ASEAN. Out of the all the arrests, 28 of them have been charged under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code. The media have been explicitly targeted by the military junta for reporting on the frontlines throughout the coup.
The IFJ said: “The military junta in Myanmar is putting extreme pressure on the media to stay quiet. This is evident in the widespread arrests of journalists under Section 505(a). The IFJ urges the military to release Aung Mya Than and assure the safety of all journalists. Quality journalism like that of Aung Mya Than is an essential tool for spreading information and shining a light on the darkness that is Myanmar’s civil war.”