Myanmar: Two journalists sentenced to jail by military court for spreading misinformation

A military court in Myanmar sentenced Aung Kyaw, a reporter from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), and Ko Zaw Zaw, a freelance reporter with Mizzima News, under a colonial-era law. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the military junta’s use of the Penal Code to jail journalists.

Demonstration against the military coup. Credit: STR AFP

Aung Kyaw and Zaw Zaw were both sentenced to two years’ jail by a military court in Myanmar for spreading misinformation. The journalists were charged under a newly revised law that criminalises the spread of misinformation.

During the hearing, Aung Kyaw represented himself as his lawyer was threatened by the military, as stated by the DVB.

Dozens of members of Myanmar’s media are currently being detained without charge in the country. Aung Kyaw was the second journalist from DVB to be convicted since the coup. Mizzima said that “[U]nder section 505A, another ten journalists of Mizzima have been included in the process of prosecution inside prison.”

The new Section 505A prohibits causing fear, spreading misinformation, and inciting crimes against a government employee. Law experts note that it is this new law which is being used against a wide range of people who are being targeted for their opposition of military rule in the country. This is in addition to an existing law, Section 505(a) which criminalises the undermining of military or government employees.

The majority of journalists have been detained during newsroom raids, or while covering anti-coup protests.

The IFJ said: “Sentencing journalists to jail because of a claim that they are spreading false news is a condemnation of free media as the law reform is vague and unjustifiable. The IFJ urges the Myanmar to release detained and arrested journalists and to reform its penal code that strips journalist rights”

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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