Bangkok, December 13, 2021 – Myanmar authorities should release three Kanbawza Tai News journalists recently sentenced to prison for their work and drop all charges against them, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On December 10, a court at the Nyaung Shwe Taung Lay Lone Prison, in Shan state, sentenced editor Nang Nang Tai, reporter Nann Win Yi, and publisher Tin Aung Kyaw to three years each in prison under Article 505(a) of the penal code, according to a report by their employer and Kanbawza Tai News chief editor Zay Tai, who communicated with CPJ by messaging app.
Article 505(a) criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news, [or] agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee” or any action that causes “hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty toward the military and the government.”
All three journalists were arrested on March 24, 2021, at their homes in Hopong, Shan state, after covering protests against the country’s February 1 coup, Zay Tai said, adding that they had been held in pretrial detention since their arrests.
“Myanmar’s coup government must immediately release journalists Nang Nang Tai, Nann Win Yi, and Tin Aung Kyaw, and stop prosecuting members of the press for merely gathering and presenting the news,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar’s junta must stop treating journalists like criminals and allow all reporters to work freely without fear of imprisonment and reprisal.”
Kanbawza Tai News is an independent news website that covers politics and general news in Shan state, according to CPJ’s review of its website and Facebook page, which has more than 600,000 followers.
Zay Tai also faces an arrest warrant under Article 505(a) but has not been detained as of today, he told CPJ and The Irrawaddy.
The three sentenced journalists attended 19 court hearings held from April 8 to December 10, according to their employer’s report. They were allowed access to lawyers but not their family members, and do not immediately plan to appeal their convictions, Zay Tai told CPJ.
The court also sentenced Nang Nang Tai’s relative Sai Si Thu to three years in prison on the same charge, Zay Tai told CPJ, adding that authorities falsely described Sai Si Thu as a journalist.
CPJ emailed Myanmar’s Ministry of Information for comment, but did not immediately receive any response.
Myanmar’s military junta has cracked down on independent media outlets since its democracy-suspending coup on February 1, 2021, and has detained dozens of journalists, according to CPJ research.
In CPJ’s annual prison census, published earlier this month, Myanmar ranked as the world’s second-worst jailer, with at least 26 members of the press held behind bars for their work.