Myanmar: Two media workers sentenced, detained amid rising attacks to press

A freelance photographer was violently detained by junta troops and former photojournalist Ko Zaw Zaw was sentenced to three years in prison on August 20 and 24 respectively, amid rising attacks on media workers in Myanmar. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the military’s crackdown on press freedom and freedom of expression and calls for the immediate release of all detained journalists and media workers.

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on July 7, 2021. Credit: STR / AFP

On August 20, a freelance photographer and an anti-regime protestor, both students at SMVTI vocational training institute who had attended the Yangon People’s Strike in early August, were arrested by Myanmar’s military junta.

According to the organisers of the strike, both arrests were carried out by multiple junta troops who forced their way into the homes of both individuals in the Tamwe and Mayangone Townships, seized many of their possessions and transported them to a military interrogation centre. 

In a separate incident on August 25, a court sentenced former photojournalist Ko Zaw Zaw to three years in prison for incitement under Article 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code. 

The journalist was accused of promoting instability in Myanmar by posting photos of anti-regime protests and the junta’s regular use of violence on social media.

Despite retiring as a photojournalist after the military coup in February 2021, Zaw Zaw was arrested on April 9, 2022, and sent to Obo Prison in Mandalay after being interrogated for over a month.

Since the military coup in February 2021, journalists and media workers have faced increasingly poor working conditions and severe safety and security threats. On July 29, journalist Maung Maung Myo was sentenced to six years imprisonment for possessing interviews with insurgent group members fighting Myanmar’s military regime. Within the same week, journalist Toru Kubota was detained while filming a protest in Yangon.

On July 28, the South East Asia Journalists Unions (SEAJU) strongly condemned the junta’s execution of four pro-democracy activists, the first use of capital punishment in Myanmar since 1988, and the continued assault on human rights and press freedom under the military regime.

The IFJ said: “Under Myanmar’s military regime, journalists and media workers have been increasingly persecuted and become the victims of arbitrary violent attacks, intimidation, and harassment. The IFJ condemns the sentencing of Ko Zaw Zaw and the arrests of the two student protestors and urges the junta to respect press freedom and human rights in Myanmar.”

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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