Pu Tuidim’s body was found in Matupi township, in Chin State, a mountainous region bordering on India, on the morning of 9 January, two days after he and nine other civilians were abducted by members of the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, as he was covering the clashes between the Tatmadaw and local armed rebels. The soldiers shot him after using him as a human shield.
He was the founder and editor of the Khonumthung Media Group, a local news outlet named after Chin State’s highest mountain. Tragically, the website had just published an article about the Tatmadaw’s use of civilians as human shields.
On the evening of 9 January, Pu Tuidim’s colleagues posted a statement condemning this practice and deploring their editor’s death “caused by the military council’s atrocities.” The message was circulated throughout the region under the hashtag of #အထူးဝမ်းနည်းကြေကွဲခြင်း, a Burmese expression meaning “Special Mourning.”
“Cruelty, cynicism, barbarity – these words seem inadequate to describe Pu Tuidim’s shocking murder,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “He is the third journalist to be killed in Myanmar in less than a month, in a sign of the absolutely unacceptable practices increasingly employed by the junta. We appeal to the international community to toughen the sanctions imposed on the junta’s members in order to end this headlong escalation in terror.”
The most recent previous media fatality was Federal News Journal editor Sai Win Aung, who was killed by gunfire near the Thai border in the southeastern state of Kayin during a Tatmadaw artillery attack on 25 December. He was also covering fighting between the Tatmadaw and the People’s Defence Force (PDF), the armed resistance to the junta.
Freelance photographer Soe Naing was the first journalist to die at the junta’s hands. He died under torture on 14 December, four days after soldiers arrested him while he was covering a silent street protest in Yangon.
The number of journalists imprisoned in Myanmar has meanwhile risen to at least 59, according to RSF’s press freedom violations barometer, which is constantly updated.
They include two journalists who worked for the Zayar Times, a newspaper that was closed when the military staged their coup last February. The two journalists, deputy editor Pyae Phyo Aung and reporter Myint Myat Aung (also known as D. Myat Nyein), were each sentenced to two years in prison for “inciting crime” in a trial last week inside the prison where they are being held in the central city of Shwebo. The did not have access to a lawyer.
Myanmar is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.