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Bitter reversal: Myanmar military coup wipes out press freedom gains

July 28th, 2021  •  Author: Committee to Protect Journalists  •  40 minute read
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Pro-democracy protesters and a journalist run as riot police officers advance on them during a rally against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 27, 2021. (Reuters)

Myanmar’s junta has effectively criminalized independent journalism, arresting and charging journalists, closing news outlets, restricting access for international reporters, and driving journalists underground or into exile. Within a few months of the February military coup, the country has become one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists. A CPJ special report by Shawn W. Crispin

Published July 28, 2021

BANGKOK
When Myanmar security officials arrested journalist Kyaw Myat Hlaing for his news coverage of anti-military protests in his hometown of Myeik, they shot their firearms into his house before launching their raid.

Video footage of the attack has been viewed over 2.5 million times on Facebook, where Kyaw Myat Hlaing, a video reporter with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), livestreamed the late-night assault that resulted in his March 1 arrest.

His arrest is emblematic of the crackdown on the press since Myanmar’s military deposed de facto democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 1 coup and rounded up dozens of members of the media. Myanmar has quickly gone from imprisoning a single reporter to ranking as one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in a special mid-year survey.

At least 32 journalists were imprisoned in Myanmar because of their work as of July 1.

That total is down from at least 45 journalists jailed on June 27; on the last day of June, authorities released more than 2,000 detainees, including 13 journalists, according to news reports and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local rights group. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of those released still faced charges.

On December 1, 2020, when CPJ conducted its annual global census of imprisoned journalists worldwide, Myanmar reported only one journalist in prison. China (48), Turkey (47), Saudi Arabia (26) and Egypt (26) were the worst jailers worldwide at that time.

Meanwhile, Kyaw Myat Hlaing has been sentenced to three years in prison under Article 505(a) of Myanmar’s penal code, a broad and vaguely worded provision leveled against many of the reporters languishing behind bars. At least three reporters have been sentenced to prison terms under Article 505(a) since the coup; the rest were awaiting trial or being held on unclear charges. Myanmar held over 5,100 political prisoners as of July 1, according to the AAPP.

Penal code amendments implemented two weeks after the coup made it easier to prosecute and jail journalists through the broadening of Article 505(a) to include penalties for spreading “false news.” The provision now criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” The amendments also increased maximum prison sentences under the law from two to three years.

The breadth of the new wording prompted CPJ to classify Article 505(a) as both an anti-state charge and a “false news” charge — two types of legal accusations tracked since CPJ first collected global prison data in 1992. The number of journalists worldwide jailed on false news charges has steadily increased in recent years, and CPJ has documented the proliferation of new laws that criminalize it.

In Myanmar, the use of 505(a) since the coup has effectively made independent journalism a crime under the junta’s emergency rule, which military authorities have said will remain in place for at least one year while authorities conduct investigations into Suu Kyi and her ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government’s alleged electoral fraud.

Journalists and editors familiar with recent trial proceedings told CPJ that prosecutors and judges are under military pressure to rule against journalists on security rather than media laws, including the 2014 News Media Law, which protects press freedoms and bars custodial penalties for media-related offenses.

“We don’t accept the detention and sentencing of any of our DVB reporters or any other journalists being detained or sentenced in Burma (Myanmar),” said Aye Chan Naing, editor-in-chief of the Democratic Voice of Burma, an independent local media outlet. “Their cases are being decided by kangaroo courts,” he said. Two DVB journalists have been sentenced to prison terms while another is in detention awaiting trial.

Police arrest Myanmar Now journalist Kay Zon Nwe in Yangon on February 27, 2021, during a demonstration against the military. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

The number of jailed journalists in Myanmar could well be much higher than CPJ’s count, considering many news organizations are reluctant to identify detained freelancers, stringers, and other non-staff reporters they rely on for news, photographs, and video, due to concerns they could face more severe penalties if they are found to be associated with their news outlets. This is especially the case in states that have been restive with ethnic conflict, CPJ found.

Several editors contacted by CPJ, many of them in hiding to avoid potential arrest, requested that detained reporters not be identified as their contributors, including news organizations that have had their operating licenses revoked by the junta in the wake of the coup.

Myanmar’s post-coup assault on the free press marks a drastic reversal of liberalizing policies implemented beginning in 2012 that freed journalists from prison, ended pre-publication censorship, and allowed independent media to take root across the country, including in ethnic areas where such reporting was previously banned.

Then as now, CPJ’s research shows, hell is a Myanmar prison. Journalists and editors who communicated with CPJ say their detained reporters have been subjected to abuse and torture by interrogating officers while in detention. Authorities did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment on these allegations.

Nathan Maung, editor-in-chief of Kamayut Mediatold CPJ in an interview that he and his colleague Hanthar Nyien were blindfolded for several days, physically beaten, and deprived of food and water while being held at the Yay Kyi Ai military interrogation center in Yangon.

Maung alleged that Nyein was burned with a lit cigarette and made to kneel on an ice block while handcuffed during interrogations. Authorities attempted to rape him to force him to reveal his phone password, which he finally relinquished, according to Maung.

Maung, a U.S. citizen, was released in June and deported to the United States; Nyein, a Myanmar national, is still being held on Article 505(a) and another criminal charge related to his journalism.

Chan Bu, a jailed journalist with independent The 74 Media group, was likewise tortured during seven days of interrogations in mid-May at a Kachin State military command facility, according to the outlet’s editor Htoi Awng, who communicated with CPJ by messaging app.

Htoi Awng said authorities physically beat Chan Bu, deprived her of food and sleep, and threatened to kill her if she didn’t answer their questions about her news organization and reporting. She now faces charges under Article 505(a). The 74 Media has since moved its operations from a government to rebel-controlled area in Kachin State to avoid military reprisals, Htoi Awng said.

Journalists also faced harassment and prosecution under the rule of Suu Kyi, who defended the lengthy imprisonment on trumped-up charges of two Reuters reporters for their reporting on human rights abuses by the military. But independent media operated in the open.

Now, the threat of arrest and imprisonment has driven many news organizations to close their offices and report from underground to avoid reprisals, editors and journalists told CPJ, many using messaging apps and communicating only late at night when they believe monitoring authorities are off duty.

Authorities have imposed rolling restrictions on Internet access since the coup, making it difficult for reporters to send news, images, and videos of their protest coverage. Authorities have said the restrictions are necessary to prevent chaos and violence, which they claim has been provoked online.

Military authorities have revoked at least eight news organizations’ licenses for unstated reasons since the coup, according to Reporting ASEAN, an independent regional news outlet and discussion portal. Reporters who continue to report from underground for these banned outlets risk especially severe punishments if discovered by authorities.

Dozens of journalists are in hiding from arrest warrants issued in retaliation against their news reporting activities, according to information compiled by AAPP. They include at least five reporters from the Shan State-based Tachiliek News Agency, which has been banned by the junta and whose reporter Kyaw Zin Hein is in detention, according to Cherry Htike, an editor at the news outlet who is in hiding.

“Grassroots media like Tachiliek News Agency have little choice but to stop operations or risk arrests and jailing,” Htike said via a messaging app. “The fact that the military junta is jailing journalists means it’s afraid of a free press.”

AP journalist Thein Zaw talks to reporters outside Insein prison after his release on March 24, 2021, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP)

An unknown number of others have fled into exile to avoid arrest and persecution. In March, three DVB reporters were arrested in neighboring Thailand after fleeing persecution in Myanmar. They were convicted of immigration offenses by a Thai court and deported to an unnamed third country.

While countries like Thailand and India allowed exile media groups to operate from their territory during the previous era of military dictatorship in Myanmar, their current governments are less likely to make such allowances for sanctuary-seeking journalists due to their improved diplomatic and economic ties with Myanmar.

Military spokespeople have denied that press freedom has come under threat since the coup. Army spokesman and junta press team head Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said at a March 23 news conference that the military “respects and values media freedom.”

That wasn’t apparent, however, in a Ministry of Information statement released just weeks after the coup that warned some media were using “incorrect words” such as “coup,” “junta,” and “regime” to refer to the military’s takeover, usage it claimed violated publishing laws and may “arouse civil unrest.” On June 28, the ministry doubled down on the warning to foreign media, saying that “action will be taken” against foreign news outlets that “apply wrong usages, quote and exaggerate fake news and disseminate false information.”

Reporters with foreign news organizations have been targeted with arrest, with Associated Press and BBC reporters temporarily detained and later released without charge. One BBC reporter who declined to be named told CPJ that the BBC’s Yangon bureau, which is staffed solely with Myanmar nationals, now operates in a “low-key way” to avoid further reprisals.

Few foreign journalists are being allowed access to the country, and those who do gain entry are closely monitored. In April, authorities detained a handful of residents after they had contact with a CNN reporter, news reports said.

At least three foreign reporters have been detained and deported since the coup. U.S. national Danny Fenster, who serves as managing editor at the local Frontier Myanmar, was detained at Yangon airport in May and now faces charges under Article 505(a) for his news coverage; he was the only international journalist still jailed at the time of CPJ’s census.

Journalists and editors told CPJ they believe the threats, arrests and imprisonments are the beginning of a campaign to roll back press freedom gains achieved under quasi-civilian and democratic governments, and restore the harsh media censorship seen under previous authoritarian military regimes.

“The military regime thinks they can hide their wrongdoing by threatening and arresting independent journalists,” said DVB’s Aye Chan Naing, whose news group is world renowned for its dogged underground reporting under previous military regimes. “They never succeeded in the past decades and they never will.”

Findings from CPJ’s research on journalists imprisoned in Myanmar include:
  • At least 24 journalists are charged under Article 505a; one faces a different charge
  • Seven journalists are jailed without any charge disclosed
  • Six of the jailed journalists are female, 26 are male
  • Nearly a third of those imprisoned are freelancers
  • At least three journalists have reported health problems in prison

View or download the prisoner data.

Read the methodology.


Recommendations

The Committee to Protect Journalists makes the following recommendations.

To Myanmar’s military junta: 

  • Release all journalists in detention and drop all pending charges against them.
  • Repeal all outstanding arrest warrants for journalists. Stop using charges under Article 505(a) to arrest and convict reporters.
  • Do not beat, torture, or otherwise abuse detained journalists. Investigate allegations of abuse and bring the responsible officials to full justice.
  • Restore the licenses of independent news outlets that have been revoked and allow all journalists to report without fear of reprisal.
  • Cease issuing censorship orders, including on what language the media may use to refer to the military coup and the State Administration Council it installed.
  • Revoke the ban on satellite television and news stations. Restore the operating licenses of local news broadcasters including Mizzima and the Democratic Voice of Burma.
  • Allow exiled journalists to return home without the threat of reprisals and allow them to practice journalism freely.
  • Allow foreign reporters unfettered access to Myanmar.

To the international community: 

  • Governments should implement targeted sanctions on the junta leadership and all individuals responsible for abusing journalists and suppressing press freedom.
  • The Council of the European Union should review the impact of existing sanctions on the junta; issue further sanctions to pressure the junta to release journalists and restore press freedom.
  • Neighboring countries including India and Thailand should give Myanmar journalists sanctuary and allow them to work in exile. Refrain from deporting any journalists who arrive fleeing threats in Myanmar.
  • The United States and other donors should reinstate funding commitments to exile media groups that were in place during previous military rule until press freedom is restored to Myanmar.
  • EU delegations, EU member state diplomatic missions, and U.S. missions in India and Thailand should develop a coordinated long-term strategy to support exiled journalists, to include funding and operational support.
  • The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should step up monitoring of the ongoing repression, including the fate of imprisoned journalists, while pressing UN leadership and member states to engage in a political process to end the general violence and suppression.
  • UN leadership must gain country access for the special envoy on Myanmar, who in turn should consult press freedom groups and exiled journalists and prioritize press freedom.
  • ASEAN should immediately appoint a special envoy, as laid out in its Five-Point-Consensus, instructing the envoy to consult with local and exiled journalists and press freedom groups, and advocate for a restoration of press freedom. As a first step in the mediation process called for in the consensus, ASEAN should assume leadership in securing the prompt release of imprisoned journalists.

Journalists jailed in Myanmar

Kaung Myat Hlaing, a photographer for Democratic Voice of Burma who is also known as Aung Kyaw, is serving a two-year prison sentence under Article 505(a) of the penal code, news reports said. The broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”

He was arrested on March 1, 2021, at his home in Myeik town, Tanintharyi Region, and livestreamed the raid on Facebook, according to news reports. He was arrested and sentenced for his reporting on demonstrations against the military coup, according to Democratic Voice of Burma Editor-in-Chief Aye Chan Naing, who communicated with CPJ via email.

He represented himself in court after his lawyer came under threat, and said he would not appeal his conviction because he has “no confidence” in the judiciary under military rule, Aye Chan Naing said.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his sentencing and his expressed lack of confidence in the judiciary.

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Min Nyo, a photographer for Democratic Voice of Burma, is serving a three-year sentence in Pyay Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, according to news reports and a DVB statement on his conviction.

The broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”

Authorities arrested Min Nyo on March 3 in the Bago Region’s town of Pyay while he was covering anti-military protests, according to the DVB statement, which said he was “brutally beaten by police” and “seriously injured” during the arrest.

DVB Editor-in-Chief Aye Chan Naing told CPJ via email that the journalist plans to appeal the verdict.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his sentencing and his treatment in custody.

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Kamayut Media co-founder and news producer Hanthar Nyein was arrested along with Editor-in-Chief Nathan Maung on March 9 at the news website’s bureau in Yangon, according to news reports and Maung, who communicated with CPJ by email.

Authorities physically abused Hanthar and Maung during an initial two weeks of detention at the Yay Kyi Ai interrogation center in Insein Township, according to Hanthar’s family, who communicated with CPJ via an intermediary, and Maung, who said he believes Kamayut was targeted for its coverage of the anti-coup protests and previous human rights reporting on the Rohingya refugee crisis and the military’s abuses.

Hanthar was severely beaten around the head, burnt on his belly, thighs, and buttocks with lit cigarettes, and made to kneel on ice while his hands were cuffed behind him during interrogations, the intermediary and Maung told CPJ by email.

Hanthar is being held at Insein Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under the provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

Maung, an American national, was released and deported to the United States on June 15.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Hanthar’s legal status and the accusations that he was tortured in custody.

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Myanmar freelance reporter Min Min Aung was arrested on March 16, 2021, while covering a protest-related arson attack in Yangon’s Oakkan township for the local The Voice news website, according to news reports, a report by Democratic Voice of Burma, and the rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

His wife, Democratic Voice of Burma reporter May Thwe Aung, was arrested on the same day for unclear reasons, according to the reports and AAPP data. He is being held at Insein Prison and faces charges under Articles 114, 332, and 436 of the penal code. 

According to the criminal code, Article 114 concerns abetting a crime, Article 332 outlines causing hurt to deter a public servant from doing their duty, and Article 436 concerns causing criminal mischief by fire or explosive device. All carry potential prison sentences.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on the various charges leveled against him and his treatment in detention.

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Myanmar freelance reporter Ba Ba Joe Phyu was arrested on March 20, 2021, in Bamaw township in Kachin State, according to a Kachin News Group report, a report by the Democratic Voice of Burma, and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners rights group.

He is being held at Bamaw township’s detention center in Kachin State. CPJ could not determine where he was arrested or what he was doing at the time, or whether he has been charged.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on whether he has been charged and why he is being held.

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Myanmar reporter Than Htike Aung was arrested on March 19, 2021, in front of the Dekkhina District court in Naypyidaw during a scheduled hearing for a detained political leader that he was covering for the Mizzima news website, according to news reports, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners rights group, and Mizzima founder and chairman Soe Myint, who communicated with CPJ by email.

He is being held at Naypyidaw’s Zabuthiri Township police station on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”  Convictions under that provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

Military authorities rescinded the operating licenses of five news outlets including Mizzima for unstated reasons on March 8, news reports said.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Freelance videographer Aung Ko Latt, who has contributed to Democratic Voice of Burma and founded the Myanmar Citizen News Agency, was detained on March 21, 2021, in the capital Naypyidaw, according to news reports.

He is being held at Naypyidaw prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under that provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

A preliminary hearing in his case was held at a Naypyidaw prison court on April 5, according to a Voice of America report.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Kanbawza Tai News editor Nann Nann Tai, also known as Nway Nway Hlaing, was arrested on March 24, 2021 at her home in Hopone, Shan State, after covering anti-coup protests, according to news reports and Zay Tai, the news website’s chief editor, who communicated with CPJ by messaging app.

She is being held at Taunggyi’s Lay Lone Prison in Shan State on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under the provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on her legal status and treatment in detention.

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Kanbawza Tai News publisher Tin Aung Kyaw was arrested on March 24, 2021, at his home in Hopone, Shan State after covering anti-coup protests, according to the news reports and Kanbawza Tai News chief editor Zay Tai, who communicated with CPJ by messaging app.

He is being held at Taunggyi’s Taung Lay Lone Prison in Shan State on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under the provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Kanbawza Tai News reporter Nann Win Yi was arrested on March 24, 2021, at her home in Hopone, Shan State after covering anti-coup protests, according to news reports and Kanbawza Tai News chief editor Zay Tai, who communicated with CPJ by messaging app.

She is being held at Taunggyi’s Taung Lay Lone Prison in Shan State on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under the provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties. 

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on her legal status and treatment in detention.

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Wine Maw, editor of the Myanmar Herald news website, was arrested on March 24, 2021, while reporting on an anti-junta protest in Kyaukmyaung township of Yangon, according to a DVB report and the rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

He is being held at Insein Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under that provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Tin Shwe, a reporter for the Magway Post news website, was arrested on March 26, 2021, while reporting on an anti-junta protest in Minbu town, Magwe Region, according to a DVB report, and the rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners. On March 13, he had reported on protest-related violence and arrests in Magwe, according to social media posts that cited his work.

He is being held at Magwe Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, according to the association. The broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under the provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Myanmar freelance photographer Htet Myat Thu was arrested on March 27, 2021, while taking photographs at an anti-coup protest in Kyaikto, Mon State, for Voice of Thanbyuzayat news websiteaccording to news reports and editor-in-chief Paing Htoo, who communicated with CPJ via Facebook.

Htet Myat Thu was shot in the ankle by a police officer, and taken into custody at the Mawlamyine military hospital where he was treated for his injuries, Paing Htoo said. He was later moved to Thaton Prison in Mon State and charged under Article 505(a) of the penal code, according to Paing Htoo. The broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government,” and carries penalties up to three years in prison.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on the allegations that police shot him, his legal status, and treatment in detention.

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Chan Bu, a reporter for The 74 Media news website, was arrested on March 29, 2021, while reporting on an anti-junta protest in Myitkyina, Kachin State, according to news reports, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners rights group, and The 74 Media chief editor Htingnan Htoi Awng, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.

Chan Bu was held in police detention for 10 days before being transferred to Myitkyina Prison. On May 11, she was taken from the prison to the military’s Northern Command, where she was beaten and deprived of sleep, food, and proper sanitation during a week of interrogations, according to Htoi Awng, who received the information from her lawyer.

Chan Bu faces charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under the law carry maximum three-year prison sentences.

Authorities issued arrest warrants for 12 staff members of The 74 Media in relation to the charges against Chan Bu, according to Htoi Awng, who said they continued reporting the news while in hiding.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on the allegations she faced abuse while in detention and her current legal status.

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La Raw, a reporter for Kachin Wave News websitewas arrested on March 29, 2021, while taking photos of an anti-junta protest in the Aye Zay Ti quarter of Myitkyina, Kachin State, according to news reports, the rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners and a Kachin Wave News editor who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.

He is being held at Myitkyina Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under the provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

La Raw has not been allowed family visits and his lawyer Tet Thun Oo was arrested on unclear charges on June 2, according to the Kachin Wave News editor, who declined to be identified for their safety.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Kamayut Media reporter Kyaw Zin Thant was arrested on March 31, 2021, while at a tea shop in Yangon’s Hlaing Township, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners rights group and the outlet’s editor-in-chief, Nathan Maung, who communicated with CPJ by email after his own release from prison. Maung said he believed Kyaw Zin Thant was targeted for his journalism and association with Kamayut Media and its reporting on anti-coup protests.

He is being held at Insein Prison in Yangon, according to the association’s data and the Kamayut Media representative. It was not immediately clear under what charges he was being held.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on whether he has been charged and why he is being held.

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Democratic Voice of Burma reporter Thet Naing Win is serving a three-year prison sentence under Article 505(a) of the penal code, according to news reports and the news outlet’s editor-in-chief, Aye Chan Naing, who communicated with CPJ via email. The broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”

He was sentenced on June 16, Aye Chan Naing said.

Thet Naing Win was arrested on April 6, 2021, while reporting on an anti-junta protest in Minhla Township, Bago Region, according to a DVB report and the rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners. He is being held at Bago Region’s Tharrawaddy Prison, the same reports said.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his sentencing and treatment in detention.

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Myanmar freelance journalist La Pyae, a contributor to the local Bago Weekly news publication, was arrested on April 5, 202, under unclear circumstances, according to a DVB report and the rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

He is being held at Pyay Prison in the Bago Region, according to the association. CPJ could not determine under what charges he was being held.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on whether he has been charged and why he is being held.

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Mizzima News reporter Zaw Zaw is serving a two-year sentence in Myiek Prison under Article 505(a) of the penal code, according to news reports and Mizzima founder and chairman Soe Myint, who communicated with CPJ via email. The broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”

Authorities arrested Zaw Zaw on April 7, 2021, in the southern city of Myiek, Tanintharyi Region. He was covering anti-junta protests in both Myiek and Dawei before his arrest, the reports and Soe Myint said. Zaw Zaw is being held at Myiek Prison, according to Soe Myint and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a local rights group.

Military authorities rescinded the operating licenses of five news outlets including Mizzima for unstated reasons on March 8, news reports said.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his sentencing and treatment in detention.

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Mizzima News co-founder Thin Thin Aung was arrested on April 8, 2021, in Yangon while withdrawing funds from a bank machine, according to news reports and Mizzima Editor-in-Chief Soe Myint, who communicated with CPJ by email. She is being held at Insein Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”.

Although Thin Thin Aung no longer worked at Mizzima News, the anti-state charges were filed against her on the grounds that the outlet continued to publish and broadcast after military authorities revoked its media license for unstated reasons on March 8, according to Soe Myint.

Soe Myint said Thin Thin Aung and Mizzima administration assistant manager James Pu Thoure were “tortured physically and mentally” at Yangon’s Yay Kyu Aing interrogation center from April 8 to 21 before being moved to Insein Prison. He did not elaborate.

Thin Thin Aung had resigned from Mizzima due to ill health in February before her arrest, Soe Myint said, without describing her health problems.

Twelve Mizzima reporters and personnel including Soe Myint and Managing Editor Sein Win have outstanding arrest warrants, according to Soe Myint.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on the grounds of Thin Thin Aung’s arrest, the charge against her and allegation she has been tortured while in detention.

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Freelance reporter Naung Yoe, who contributed to Kachin News Group, was arrested on April 9, 2021, while covering an anti-coup protest in Hpakant town, Kachin State, according to news reports, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, and Kachin News Group editor Sam Naw, who communicated with CPJ over a messaging app.

Naung Yoe is being held at Hpakant Police Station under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government,” according to the reports and association.

Convictions under the provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties. He has been allowed prison visits, according to Sam Naw.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Myitkyina News Journal reporter Myo Myat Myat Pan was arrested in the evening of April 13, 2021, at her home in Myitkyana, Kachin State, according to news reports, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners rights group, and Myitkyina News Journal’s chief executive Brang Mai, who communicated with CPJ by email.

Arresting officers seized her laptop computer and documents during the raid, The Irrawaddy reported. She is being held at Myitkyina Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”

She has been allowed access to a lawyer, according to Brang Mai. He said Myitkyina News Journal has shut down and removed all documents from its office due to the military’s media crackdown.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on her legal status and treatment in detention.

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Myitkyina News Journal reporter Christopher, who uses only one name, was arrested on April 14, 2021, on the street in Myitkyana city in Kachin State, according to news reports, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners rights group, and Myitkyina News Journal’s chief executive Brang Mai, who communicated with CPJ by email.

He said the publication has shut down and removed all documents from its office due to the military’s media crackdown.

Christopher is being held at the Myitkyina Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”

He has been allowed access to a lawyer, according to Brang Mai.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Myitkyina News Journal reporter Ah Je was arrested on April 14, 2021, on the street in Myitkyana city in Kachin State, according to news reports, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners rights group, and Myitkyina News Journal’s chief executive Brang Mai, who communicated with CPJ by email.

Brang Mai said the publication has shut down and removed all documents from its office due to the military’s crackdown on the media.

Ah Je is being held at Myitkyina Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”

He has been allowed access to a lawyer, according to Brang Mai.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status ad treatment in detention.

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Myanmar freelance reporter Naing Linn Tun, known as Saw Jet Kalinn, was arrested on April 21, 2021, in Dawei city while reporting on an anti-coup protest for Dakhina Insight, according to a report by Dawei Watch and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a local rights group.

He is being held at Dawei Prison on charges under Articles 145, joining an unlawful assembly, and 505(a) of the penal code, according to Dawei Watch. The latter is a broad provision that criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” It carries maximum three-year prison penalties.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on the charges leveled against him and his treatment in detention.

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Soldiers arrested Thanlyin Post editor Tu Thu Thar on April 24, 2021, at her home in Yangon, according to news reports and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a local rights group.

Authorities also arrested her 18-year-old son and her younger brother, the reports said. The Irrawaddy quoted a relative saying troops found anti-regime pamphlets in the house and confiscated phones and laptops. Tu Thu Thar was editor-in-chief of Thanlyin Post, a local weekly journal, and previously worked for The Irrawaddy’s Burmese edition, the report said.

She is being held at Yangon’s Shwe Pyi Thar Interrogation Center, according to the association. It was not immediately clear under what charge she was being held.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on whether she has been charged and why she is being held.

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Myanmar freelance photographer San Myint was beaten and arrested on May 2, 2021, while at a betel nut shop located at Aung Chan Thar 4 Road in Pathein Township, Ayeyarwady Region, according to an Ayeyarwaddy Times report and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a local rights group.

He is being held at Pathein Prison, according to the association. CPJ could not determine under what charges he is being held.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on whether he has been charged and why he is being held.

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Freelance journalist Aung Kyaw Oo was arrested on May 13, 2021, in Yenangyoung Township, Magway Region, while traveling to a tea shop, according to news reports and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a rights group. He was previously affiliated with Tomorrow News Journal but was no longer with the news outlet at the time of his arrest, the reports said.

A family member quoted anonymously in a Pyu Regional News report said Aung Kyaw Oo was arrested for news he published on Facebook. He is being held at Yenangyoung Police Station, according to the association. CPJ could not determine under what charges he is being held.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on whether he has been charged and why he is being held.

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Tachileik News Agency reporter Kyaw Zin Hein was arrested on May 13, 2021, in Tachilek City, Shan State, while he was traveling from a safe house, according to local news reports and Tachileik News Agency editor Cherry Htike, who communicated with CPJ by messaging app.

He is being held at Tachileik Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, Htike said. The broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under that provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

His first hearing was initially scheduled for May 28 but has been delayed on several occasions, most recently on June 22, she said.

Htike said authorities have revoked Tachileik News Agency’s operating license and issued arrest warrants for five of its reporters.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Freelance reporter Nyein Chan Wai, who contributed to Bago Weekly Journal, was arrested at his father-in-law’s house on May 15, 2021, by 40 arresting officers in Letbadan Township, Bago Region, according to local news reports and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a local rights group.

He is being held at Tharrawaddy Prison on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.” Convictions under that provision allow for maximum three-year prison penalties.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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American journalist Danny Fenster, managing editor of English-language magazine Frontier Myanmarwas detained on May 24, 2021, at Yangon International Airport before he was to board an international flight, according to news reports and a statement by Frontier Myanmar.

He was later transferred to Yangon’s Insein Prison, where he is being held on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, according to news reports and Frontier Myanmar Chief Executive and founder Sonny Swe, who communicated with CPJ by messaging app. The broad provision criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or that “causes their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”

No reasons were given for the charges against him during a court hearing on June 17, the reports said. A second hearing was held on July 1, according to a report by U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America.

Fenster’s lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, told The Associated Press that his client was charged in connection with his previous work as a reporter and copy editor for the news website Myanmar Now, from which he resigned in July 2020. Authorities revoked Myanmar Now’s license in March. Than Zaw Aung said it is unclear if Fenster’s arrest was linked to any particular story published by that outlet.

He has not been allowed consular or family visits while in detention, the reports and Sonny Swe said.

The U.S. State Department has said it is working to secure Fenster’s release. The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on his legal status and treatment in detention.

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Zayar Times reporter De Myat Nyein was arrested by military authorities who arrived in three cars in the morning of June 26 in Sagaing City, Sagaing Region, according to local news reports and the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a local rights group. Authorities seized his phone, laptop and motorcycle, according to the local reports.

It was not immediately clear where he was being detained, and CPJ could not determine whether he has been charged.

Zayar News website was established in 2017 and reports on Sagaing Region local news, according to news reports. It has closed down since the coup, the reports said.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on whether he has been charged and why he is being held.

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Methodology

CPJ’s special census of journalists imprisoned in Myanmar is a snapshot of those incarcerated at midnight on July 1, 2021. It does not include the many other journalists jailed and released throughout the year. CPJ includes only those journalists who it has confirmed have been imprisoned in relation to their work.

Given travel restrictions, CPJ’s research was conducted from outside Myanmar via phone calls, emails, and messaging apps with in-country news organizations whose reporters were imprisoned. Many of those independent news groups are operating from underground and requested anonymity due to fear of military reprisal. CPJ also collaborated closely with the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, Democratic Voice of Burma, and coordinators of the Detained Journalists Information Myanmar Facebook group. CPJ is grateful to all for their collaboration. The research also draws on independent news reports.

Shawn W. Crispin is CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.


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