Bangkok, December 13, 2016--Authorities in Myanmar should consider journalism as a motive in the murder of muckraking newspaper reporter Soe Moe Tun and bring his killers to swift justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Soe Moe Tun, a reporter with the local Daily Eleven newspaper, was found dead today by the side of a road with bruises and injuries to his face and head.
The journalist's body was found near a golf course in Monywa, in Myanamar's northwestern Sagaing Region, according to news reports. The Myanmar Times cited Ko Min Thant, Eleven Media Group's bureau chief in the central town of Mandalay, as saying that Soe Moe Tun was investigating a story on illegal logging and wood smuggling at the time of his death. The bureau chief told the newspaper that Soe Moe Tun had previously reported on illegal wood smuggling in the region.
Police Captain Thein Swe Myint said police had opened a murder investigation into the reporter's death but that they had not yet identified any suspects or possible motives, according to news reports. The police official told Reuters that Soe Moe Tun had been "attacked" and "beaten" in the back of the head with a stick. The multimedia news group Democratic Voice of Burma reported today that the deceased's belongings, including his motorbike, two mobile phones, a ring, and some money were found at the scene, suggesting that robbery was an unlikely motive for the murder.
"We categorically condemn the murder of journalist Soe Moe Tun and call on Myanmar authorities to leave no stone unturned in identifying and prosecuting those responsible," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "A culture of impunity is taking deeper root in Myanmar. The government should break the cycle in media murders by achieving swift justice in this case."
Eleven Media Group, the owner and publisher of Daily Eleven, said in a press release published on its website today that Soe Moe Tun had served as its reporter in Myonwa and surrounding areas since January 2015.
Reuters, citing an editor at the newspaper, said that Soe Moe Tun had recently reported on many sensitive subjects, including a seizure of narcotic stimulant tablets and a surge in the establishment of new karaoke lounges in the region that allegedly operated as illegal brothels.
CPJ research shows that at least four journalists have been killed with impunity in Myanmar since 1999. Most recently, freelance journalist Aung Kyaw Naing was shot and killed in October 2014 while being held in military custody in southeastern Mon State. A military court in a secret trial acquitted two soldiers of his death the following month. Police pursuing a separate civil complaint stopped their investigation into the case in April this year after a court ruled the reporter had died of "unnatural causes," press reports said.