Bangkok, May 18, 2022 – Myanmar authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Maung Maung Myo and stop jailing members of the press for reporting the news, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
Around 6 p.m. on May 10, Maung Myo, a contributor to the local Mekong News Agency, was traveling by train to report on recent armed clashes between the military and anti-junta people’s defense forces when military authorities arrested him, according to news reports and the news agency’s editor Nyan Linn Htet, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.
The reporter, who is also known as Myo Myint Oo, was arrested at the Salween River bridge checkpoint near the town of Hpa-an in eastern Kayin state after officials discovered he had shared Mekong News Agency reports on his personal Facebook page, according to Nyan Linn Htet, who told CPJ that the news publication had been banned by the military junta regime that seized power in the February 1, 2021 coup.
Maung Myo has since been charged under section 52(a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law, which carries a maximum of seven years in prison, according to Nyan Linn Htet. Since his arrest, the journalist has been held at Hpa-an Prison.
“Myanmar authorities must free journalist Maung Maung Myo and drop any charges pending against him,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar’s junta must cease leveling outrageous terrorism-related charges against journalists who are merely doing their jobs as reporters.”
Maung Myo has reported for Mekong News Agency since June 2020 and has covered various political topics, including Myanmar’s COVID-19 situation, anti-coup protests, and clashes between the military government and different armed resistance groups.
Nyan Linn Htet told CPJ that military authorities raided Mekong News Agency’s office and his residence on two occasions after the 2021 coup, and the publication had to close its bureau in the Shan state town of Tachiliek on April 15, 2021, due to threats from security forces.
Nyan Linn Htet added that he is in hiding from an arrest warrant issued against him on March 6, 2021, under section 505(a) of the penal code, a vague anti-state provision that penalizes incitement and the dissemination of “false news.”
Myanmar’s Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Maung Myo’s arrest and detention.
CPJ’s latest prison census published in December ranked Myanmar as the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists. Myanmar authorities have killed at least three journalists since the military seized power on February 1, 2021, according to CPJ documentation.