Htet Htet Khine

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Myanmar freelance journalist Htet Htet Khine, who serves as a producer at BBC Media Action, is serving a five-year sentence with hard labor for criminal incitement, a charge Myanmar’s military regime has used broadly to stifle independent news reporting since staging a democracy-suspending coup in 2021.

On September 15, 2021, Htet Htet Khine was convicted and sentenced under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes incitement and the dissemination of false news, according to multiple news reports.

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. Hearings in her first trial were closed to the media and public, the AP report said.

On September 27, she was sentenced to an additional three years in prison with hard labor, according to a statement by BBC Media Action, which did not specify the charge she was convicted under. The ruling said her sentence would be reduced to five years for time served in pretrial detention. 

Before the second ruling, Htet Htet Khine faced a charge under Section 17(1) of the colonial-era Unlawful Association Act for allegedly contacting “illegal organizations,” which carried a possible three years in prison, news reports said. 

The anti-state charge alleged she worked for a banned radio station and harbored fellow journalist Sithu Aung Myint while he was in hiding from an arrest warrant, according to news reports.

Htet Htet Khine, who previously hosted BBC Media Action’s “Khan Sar Kyi” or “Feel It” television news program, was held in pretrial detention until her sentencing, those reports said. BBC Media Action is an independent charity, separate from BBC News.

BBC Media Action’s statement after her second conviction said “we remain concerned for her safety and well-being in detention.” 

Htet Htet Khine was arrested on August 15, 2021, at an apartment in Yangon along with Sithu Aung Myint, who has likewise been convicted and sentenced on anti-state charges. Htet Htet Khine was held in pretrial detention until her conviction, according to the news reports and CPJ reporting.

Her arrest came in the wake of the military’s February 1, 2021, democracy-suspending coup and subsequent protests. The military junta cracked down on Myanmar’s independent media, detaining dozens of journalists.

Htet Htet Khine has been moved since her trials 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.”

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed requests sent in late 2022 for comment on her conviction, detention and health.