Myanmar’s Junta Continues to Persecute Journalists

An international media watchdog urged Myanmar authorities on Monday to promptly free two journalists working for foreign media and dismiss all charges against them.

Myanmar JournalistsJournalists Sithu Aung Myint and Htet Htet Khine, arrested and charged by Myanmar's military junta. (Photo: RSF, Twitter)New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Myanmar’s military junta to release Sithu Aung Myint, a columnist for the independent Frontier Myanmar magazine and a commentator for the Voice of America, and a columnist and BBC presenter and producer Htet Htet Khine.

Myanmar’s exile media reported their arrest last week, while Myanmar Now, an independent media outlet, reported on Monday that the junta has charged the two journalists with sedition, “for criticising the coup regime and supporting the underground National Unity Government (NUG),” which the junta labeled a terrorist organization.

The junta-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar news outlet said that Sithu Aung Myint had posted articles criticizing the State Administration Council, incited government employees to join the Civil Disobedience Movement, supported terrorist groups NUG/CRPH, and spread false information and fake news.

He was charged with violating Section 505(a) of the country’s Criminal Code, which prohibits, among other things, the dissemination of information harmful to the interests of the armed forces.

Htet Htet Khine was charged for allowing Sithu Aung Myint to be at her house and for serving as a voluntary editor for Federal FM daily launched by the NUG, according to the outlet.

“Myanmar’s junta must immediately release journalists Htet Htet Khine, Sithu Aung Myint, and all other members of the press it currently holds behind bars,” CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, Shawn Crispin, said.

He stressed that Myanmar’s military rulers must stop treating journalists as criminals.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) pointed out that the arrest of the two is “all the more unacceptable because they are being held incommunicado in violation of all the most elementary international laws.”

“We strongly condemn the arbitrary conditions of their detention, which reflect the brutality with which the military junta treats journalists,” the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, Daniel Bastard, said.

RSF recalled that Sithu Aung Myint was one of many journalists on a junta blacklist, the existence of which RSF revealed in April.

The organization safeguarding the right to freedom of information concluded that Sithu Aung Myint and Htet Htet Khine “have joined the 50 or so other journalists currently held in Myanmar’s prisons.”

RSF also reminds that Myanmar is currently ranked 140th out of 180 countries in the organization’s World Press Freedom Index.