Police arrest people in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 27, 2021. At least five journalists remain in detention over their coverage of anti-coup protests. (AFP/Sai Aung Main)

CPJ calls on Myanmar military to release all journalists detained amid crackdown

Bangkok, March 1, 2021 – Myanmar’s military junta must immediately release all journalists detained for their work, and allow reporters to cover protests without fear of reprisal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Since February 9, security forces arrested at least 18 journalists covering demonstrations throughout the country against the military government, which took power in a coup earlier this month, according to CPJ documentation and data shared with CPJ by the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, an independent rights group.

At least five of those journalists remain detained today, according to the AAPP data: Thein Zaw of the Associated Press, Kay Zune Nway of Myanmar Now, Ye Myo Khant of the Myanmar Pressphoto Agency, Moe Win of Thuriya Nay Won, and freelance reporter Shwe Yi Win.

“Myanmar authorities must release all journalists being held behind bars and stop threatening and harassing reporters for merely doing their jobs of covering anti-coup street protests,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar must not return to the past dark ages where military rulers jailed journalists to stifle and censor news reporting.”

Authorities arrested Moe Win in the Bago Region’s Shwegyin Township on February 10, and Shwe Yi Win in Ayeyarwady Division’s Pathein Township on February 11, according to the AAPP data shared with CPJ. Police arrested Thein Zaw, Kay Zune Nway, and Ye Myo Khant on February 27 while they covered protests in Yangon, according to The Irrawaddy, The Associated Press, and the AAPP data.

Authorities have detained and then released at least 13 other members of the press, according to the AAPP data, which states that at least two of them—Tin Mar Swe, a reporter for MCN TV and Khin May Saan, a reporter with The Voice—are facing criminal charges.

According to that data and the Myanmar penal code, the journalists are charged with disseminating information that could cause military officers to fail to perform their work, a criminal offense punishable with a fine and up to two years in prison.

CPJ could not immediately determine whether authorities have charged any of the other journalists with crimes.

Yesterday, security forces killed at least 18 demonstrators at anti-coup protests throughout the country, according to news reports

CPJ emailed the Myanmar Ministry of Information for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.