Bangkok, March 16, 2016 – The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for an independent, high-level investigation into the bombing of a journalist’s home in western Myanmar and for the perpetrators to be swiftly identified and brought to justice.
Min Min, chief editor and general manager of the online Root Investigative Agency, a collective of local freelance journalists based in Sittwe, the capital of the western state of Rakhine, told reporters on Tuesday that a bomb exploded at his home in the late evening of March 10, according to local reports.
Min Min and his family were traveling at the time of the bombing, and nobody was injured in the attack, news reports said. The residence, which also serves as a Root Investigative Agency office, was not seriously damaged by the blast, reports said. A local Kamayut Media video report on the attack’s aftermath showed several deep holes in the wall surrounding the residence’s compound.
Min Min fled to the commercial capital of Yangon soon after the attack due to concerns for his personal security, he told CPJ by telephone. Other Root Investigation Agency reporters and Min Min’s family members, including his wife and an infant son, also fled Sittwe and are now hiding in other areas of Rakhine State, Min Min told CPJ. He said he would not feel secure to return to Sittwe unless national authorities took charge of the investigation into the attack.
“The attack on journalist Min Min’s home underscores the vulnerability of all journalists who report on sensitive issues in Myanmar, particularly in the country’s volatile Rakhine State,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call on national authorities to identify, apprehend, and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime and to ensure the safety of all journalists.”
Sittwe Township police official Yan Naing Thet confirmed that the attack occurred at around 11 p.m. on March 10, but did not provide information on whether police investigators had identified any suspects or possible motives for the crime, according to a report from Irrawaddy, a news website. An unidentified police source cited in a Myanmar Times report said the blast was caused by a “sound bomb” that intended to scare but not to kill.
Min Min said that the attack was likely in retribution for his agency’s critical reporting on various sensitive issues, including alleged corruption among local officials and the illegal narcotics trade, according to reports. The journalist said his news agency, founded in 2015, had received several anonymous threats over social media before the attack, including a posting that offered a bounty for killing him and his agency’s reporters, the reports said.
Min Min previously worked as a contributing reporter for the English-language news magazine, Frontier Myanmar, where he published a series of critical stories on Buddhist nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiment in Rakhine State, Alex Bookbinder, one of his former editors, told CPJ by email. Reporters have been threatened and attacked across Myanmar as communal tensions have flared into violence in recent years, CPJ research shows.