Bangkok, July 3, 2023 – Myanmar’s military authorities must immediately release Thaung Win, stop persecuting journalists for their work, and let the independent news outlet The Irrawaddy operate freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On June 28, the Western Yangon District Court sentenced Thaung Win, The Irrawaddy’s publisher, to five years in prison under Article 124-A of the penal code, which covers penalties for the anti-state crime of sedition, according to news reports and The Irrawaddy editor-in-chief Aung Zaw, who communicated with CPJ by email.
The court also fined him 100,000 kyats (about US$47).
Thaung Win, who became the outlet’s publisher when it received a license in late 2012 after operating for two decades from exile, was arrested at his home in Yangon on September 29, 2022, and was held at Insein Prison until his trial.
“The punitive and unjust sentencing of The Irrawaddy publisher Thaung Win is repugnant and should be immediately reversed,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “The military regime must release him and stop harassing The Irrawaddy for its fearless and uncompromising news reporting.”
Thaung Win was initially charged with violating the Publishing and Distribution Act for allegedly publishing news that “negatively affected national security, rule of law and public peace,” according to the news reports and Aung Zaw, who received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2014.
CPJ could not immediately determine if Thaung Win intends to appeal his conviction. The Yangon court that sentenced him also issued arrest warrants for three unnamed editors of The Irrawaddy on June 28, the news reports and Aung Zaw said.
The Irrawaddy has defied the ban and continues to publish daily news online. Several of its reporters have gone into hiding to avoid arrest and the publication now operates mainly from exile, according to the reports and Aung Zaw.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Thaung Win’s sentencing. Myanmar was the world’s third-worst jailer of journalists, with at least 42 members of the press behind bars at the time of CPJ’s December 1, 2022, prison census.