Police officers are seen in Yangon, Vietnam in March 2021. An Insein Prison court in Yangon sentenced journalist Htet Htet Khine to three years in prison with hard labor for incitement and the dissemination of “false news," on September 15, 2022. (Reuters/Stringer)

Myanmar sentences former BBC Media Action reporter to 3 years in prison

Bangkok, September 16, 2022 – Myanmar authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Htet Htet Khine and stop jailing members of the press for their journalistic activities, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Thursday, September 15, an Insein Prison court in Yangon sentenced Htet Htet Khine to three years in prison with hard labor for allegedly violating Section 505(a) of the penal code, which criminalizes incitement and the dissemination of “false news”, according to multiple news reports.

She also faces another charge under the Unlawful Association Act for allegedly contacting “illegal organizations,” which carries a possible three years in prison, the reports said.

“Journalist Htet Htet Khine’s conviction and sentencing show Myanmar’s military junta will stop at nothing to black out independent news reporting since its democracy-suspending coup in February last year,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “The regime must immediately stop jailing journalists for merely doing their jobs of reporting the news.”

Htet Htet Khine, a freelance journalist and former reporter for BBC Media Action, where she hosted the “Khan Sar Kyi” or “Feel It” television news program, was held in pre-trial detention until her sentencing, those reports said. BBC Media Action is an independent charity, separate from BBC News.

BBC Media Action released a September 15 statement on Htet Htet Khine’s sentencing saying her conviction “runs counter to basic principles of human rights and freedom of expression” and that it was “concerned for her safety and well-being.”

She was arrested on August 15, 2021, at an apartment in Yangon with fellow journalist Sithu Aung Myint, who remains in pre-trial detention on 505(a) charges, and was held in pre-trial detention until her conviction on Thursday, according to the news reports and CPJ reporting.

The Associated Press quoted an anonymous “legal official” that Htet Htet Khine had denied all charges against her and has not yet decided if she will appeal the verdict. Hearings in her trial were closed to the media and public, the AP report said.

Htet Htet Khine has been moved since her trial to a ward of Insein prison that holds convicted prisoners, news reports said. A lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity to U.S. Congress-fund Radio Free Asia report said she was in “good health” and “stable.”

Myanmar’s Ministry of Information did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Htet Htet Khine’s sentencing and conviction.

Myanmar was the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists as of December 1, 2021, according to CPJ’s annual prison census.

Editor’s note: The second paragraph of this report has been updated to reflect the date of sentencing.