Bangkok, March 2, 2015--A journalist in Myanmar was detained by police on Friday in connection with a satirical image he posted on Facebook about renewed hostilities between government forces and an ethnic rebel group in the country's northeastern Shan State, according to news reports. Aung Nay Myo was released today without charge, the reports said.
"Aung Nay Myo's unwarranted detention over the weekend sends a signal to all journalists that they could be next for criticizing the deteriorating security situation in Myanmar's various ethnic conflict zones," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "We call on Thein Sein's government to stop using national security laws to threaten the press and to allow journalists to report freely from both sides in conflict areas."
Aung Nay Myo, a freelance photojournalist, was arrested at his home in Monywa town on accusations of violating the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, according to news reports. Police officials searched his house, initially saying they were looking for drugs, then confiscated his diary, laptop, USB sticks, and closed circuit television equipment, the reports said.
The accusations stemmed from an altered image that Aung Nay Myo posted on his personal Facebook page. The image was of a movie poster about a 1971 battle between China-backed communist rebels and the Myanmar army, news reports said. The altered image superimposed portraits of current government leaders, including Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing, in a satirical manner, news reports said.
The image was posted after government officials were quoted in news reports accusing "Chinese mercenaries" of assisting ethnic Kokang rebels near the two countries' shared border. The Myanmar government declared martial law in the area in mid-February after armed clashes between the two sides resulted in an estimated 70 deaths, according to reports.
Aung Nay Myo was arrested following a complaint that was sent to the Monyma police station by Special Branch Police, which said the altered image and satirical text aimed at "harming, deterring, and disturbing" the government and recommended filing charges against Aung Nay Myo and unnamed "accomplices" under the Emergency Provisions Act, according to the exile-run news outlet Irrawaddy. Convictions under the law carry up to seven years in prison.
Reporters are regularly targeted in Myanmar's various armed conflict zones, including in eastern Shan and northern Kachin states, CPJ research shows. Freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Naing was shot dead in October while being held in military custody, according to news reports. An autopsy showed he may have been tortured before he was executed. No military officials have been brought to account for his death.
- For more data and analysis on Myanmar, visit CPJ's Myanmar page.