Bangkok, May 22, 2019 — Myanmar authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Nanda, a broadcast reporter with the local privately owned Channel Mandalay TV news station, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
In the morning of May 15, police arrested Nanda, who uses only one name, in Mandalay’s Aung Tha Pyay village while the journalist was covering a land-rights protest against a coal-fired cement factory, according to the privately owned Myanmar Times. Police accused him of being involved in the protest and have detained him without charge at Mandalay’s Oboe prison, Min Din, a Channel Mandalay executive, told CPJ by email.
“We call on Myanmar authorities to release Nanda, who was merely doing his job as a journalist by covering a protest,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “If Myanmar ever wants to be taken seriously as a democracy, this type of chronic harassment of the press must cease and desist.”
The reporter was among four people arrested during a police crackdown on the protest that saw security forces fire rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators, according to the Myanmar Times report, which also noted that a building in the factory’s compound was set on fire during the melee.
Min Din told CPJ that Nanda was broadcasting live from the protest over the station’s Facebook page at the time of his arrest. He said Nanda was positioned between the protestors and police for filming purposes, and that he did not partake in the protest as authorities have alleged.
CPJ’s calls to the Mandalay police for comment were not immediately returned.
Nanda faces potential charges under Articles 114, 333, and 435 of Myanmar’s penal code, which deal respectively with abetting a criminal offense, assaulting military officials, and mischief caused by fire or an explosive substance, Min Din told CPJ.