Soldiers are seen in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 28, 2021. Authorities have recently raided newsrooms, arrested journalists, and rescinded media outlets' operating licenses. (Reuters)

Myanmar military raids newsrooms, revokes 5 media outlets’ licenses

Bangkok, March 9, 2021 – Myanmar’s military authorities must immediately cease using media license cancellations as a means of censorship, refrain from raiding newsrooms, and stop arresting journalists for doing their jobs, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, state broadcaster MRTV announced that the country’s military government had rescinded the operating licenses of the independent outlets MizzimaMyanmar Now7Day NewsDemocratic Voice of Burma (DVB), and Khit Thit Media, all of which had covered the nationwide protests against the junta government since it took power in a February 1 coup, according to news reports.

The New York Times reported that stripping the licenses could make the act of reporting illegal for those five news groups.

Yesterday afternoon, dozens of soldiers and police forcibly broke into Myanmar Now’s office in downtown Yangon and seized computers, documents, and data server components, according to news reports, which stated that staffers had not been in that office since before the coup.

Today, at about 6 p.m., authorities raided Mizzima’s head office in Yangon, according to its founder and chair, Soe Myint, who communicated with CPJ by email. He said the outlet would continue working for as long as possible.

CPJ could not immediately determine whether authorities also raided the offices of 7Day NewsDVB, or Kit Thit Media.

“Myanmar’s junta must immediately reverse its wrongheaded move to suspend local media groups’ operating licenses and allow all five outlets to resume their operations as normal,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar authorities must cease and desist from censoring and intimidating the press, and allow the media to cover all newsworthy events, including protests, without harassment or fear of arrest.”

Authorities arrested DVB journalists Min Nyo while he was covering protests in Pyay Township on March 1 and Kaung Myat Hlaing at his home in Myeik City on March 3, and both remain detained without charge, according to DVB statements, which CPJ reviewed, and data provided to CPJ by the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a local rights group.

Previously, on February 27, police arrested Myanmar Now reporter Kay Zune Nway and 7Day News reporter Aung Ye while they covered protests in Yangon, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners data and CPJ reporting from the time. Both are detained in the city’s Insein Prison, and have been charged under Article 505(a) of the penal code, which criminalizes incitement to mutiny among military and police officers, according to the association’s research.

The monitoring group’s data shows that 16 journalists were in detention nationwide as of March 8.

Over 1,800 people have been detained nationwide since the February 1 coup, according to news reports

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