Her family and colleagues spent five days without any news of her after she was snatched by police as she left her home on the morning of 1 September. The police finally confirmed on 5 September that she had been arrested, but they have yet to give the judicial grounds for her arrest or say where she is being held.
Ma Thuzar, who worked for the Myanmar Pressphoto Agency and the Friday Times News Journal, told RSF before her arrest that she filmed many of the major street protests that were triggered by the military coup on 1 February. It was partly as a result of her videos, broadcast live on the Friday Times’s online networks, that this media outlet was closed on 16 April.
Two weeks later, on 1 May, around 40 police officers raided her home with the aim of arresting her under a warrant issued by the Yangon region military command. In her absence, they arrested her husband, a retired journalist, who was released five days later. It was this raid – which the Yangon region military command refused to confirm when reached by RSF – that forced Ma Thuzar to go into hiding.
51 journalists now detained
“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ma Thuzar, whose arrest and detention are completely arbitrary,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The way she has been treated reflects the illegal, brutal and inhuman treatment to which the military junta has subjected all journalists in Myanmar for the past seven months. In so doing, Myanmar is violating the most elementary legal principles and, for this reason, we call on the international community to impose targeted sanctions against those responsible for these repeated abuses.”
According to a tally verified by RSF, Ma Thuzar’s detention brings the number of journalists currently detained in Myanmar to 51. Zaw Moe Oo, a journalist who freelances for the pro-military news agency Eleven Media, was also arrested at her home in the southern Myeik region on 1 September but was released two days later.
Last month, RSF reported that Sithu Aung Myint, a political commentor for the magazine Frontier Myanmar and radio Voice Of America, was arrested by police on 15 August at an apartment in Yangon’s Bahan Township, where he had been hiding. Htet Htet Khine, the presenter of programme called “Khan Sar Kyi” (Burmese for “Feel it”) for BBC Media Action, was also arrested in the same raid.
Myanmar is currently ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.