AP journalist Thein Zaw is seen in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 26, 2021. He and six other journalists have been charged and detained for their work. (AFP)

CPJ calls for immediate release of AP’s Thein Zaw, all other journalists detained in Myanmar

Bangkok, March 12, 2021 – In response to today’s court ruling allowing Myanmar authorities to continue holding Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw and at least six other members of the press in detention on criminal charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw and all other journalists wrongly detained in Myanmar should be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “The abuse of vague criminal charges to jail journalists is tantamount to making all news reporting a crime. Myanmar’s junta must stop detaining journalists and allow reporters to do their jobs without fear of reprisal.”

Authorities arrested Thein Zaw on February 27 while he was covering a protest against the county’s military junta in Yangon, as CPJ documented at the time. Today, a court extended his pre-trial detention, and set his next bail hearing for March 24, according to the AP.

Thien Zaw and six other journalists are facing charges under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s penal code, which criminalizes the circulation of information that could cause government employees or soldiers to mutiny, according to the AP report; if convicted, they could face up to three years in prison. CPJ could not immediately identify the other six journalists facing charges.

Separately, authorities arrested Polish freelance photojournalist Robert Bociaga yesterday while he covered a protest in the northeastern city of Taunggyi on assignment for the German press agency DPA, according to the AP, citing Kanbawza Tai News; his whereabouts are unknown.

At least 18 journalists were being detained in Myanmar as of March 11, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, an independent rights group, which shared its data with CPJ.