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Myanmar prison release falls short with over 20 journalists still behind bars

October 25th, 2021  •  Author:   Committee to Protect Journalists  •  3 minute read
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Bangkok, October 25, 2021 – Myanmar’s military junta should immediately follow up its recent release of at least 15 jailed journalists by freeing all those still wrongfully held in detention, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On October 18, the country’s military government announced the release of over 5,600 prisoners in an amnesty on humanitarian grounds, according to news reports. At least 15 journalists were subsequently freed, according to local news reports and CPJ’s communication with editors and executives at their respective news organizations.

“Myanmar’s release of at least 15 journalists while leaving over 20 others to languish behind bars is a cynical attempt to alleviate rising international pressure against its repression,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Partial measures simply aren’t good enough: Myanmar’s junta must free all of the journalists it is holding wrongfully in detention.”

A CPJ special report in July documented the situation of journalists jailed in the wake of the military’s democracy-suspending February 1 coup, and found that at least 32 journalists were imprisoned due to their work as of July 1.

Many were held on charges under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad and vaguely worded provision that penalizes incitement and the spreading of “false news” with maximum three-year prison penalties, according to CPJ research; four of those recently released had been sentenced to prison terms under the provision.

The journalists, who were freed October 18 and 19, included:

  • Local independent media outlet Democratic Voice of Burma journalists Min Nyo, Kaung Myat Hlaing (Aung Kyaw), and Thet Naing Win, according to DVB editor-in-chief Aye Chan Naing, who communicated with CPJ via email. All three had been handed prison sentences under Article 505(a), according to CPJ research.
  • Mizzima news website co-founder Thin Thin Aung, reporter Zaw Zaw, and office assistant James Pu Thoure, according to news reports and Mizzima founder and chairman Soe Myint, who communicated with CPJ by email. Zaw Zaw had been handed a two-year prison sentence under Article 505(a), according to CPJ research.
  • Independent news outlet Myitkyina News Journal reporters Myo Myat Myat Pan, Tu Lawt (Christopher), and Ah Je, who were released in Kachin State, the local publication’s chief executive Brang Mai told CPJ via email.
  • Kachin Wave News website photographer La Raw, according to Htoi Awng, an editor at the local publication who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.
  • The 74 Media news website reported on its Facebook page that its reporter Chan Bu was released.
  • Voice of Thanbyuzayat news website photographer Htet Myat Thu, according to the publication’s editor-in-chief Paing Htoo, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.
  • Tachileik News Agency reporter Kyaw Zin Hein, according to the agency’s editor Cherry Htike, who communicated with CPJ by messaging app.
  • Dakhina Insight reporter Naing Linn Tun, Thanlyin Post editor Tu Tu Thar, and freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Oo, according to local reports and the Detained Journalists of Myanmar private Facebook group administrator Han Zaw, who communicated with CPJ via email.

CPJ emailed Myanmar’s Ministry of Information for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

In an open letter in April, CPJ called on coup maker Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to release all of the journalists jailed by his military regime.

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