Htet Htet Khine

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Myanmar freelance journalist Htet Htet Khine, a producer at BBC Media Action, is serving a five-year sentence with hard labor on anti-state and false news charges used broadly by Myanmar’s military regime to stifle independent news reporting since staging a democracy-suspending coup in 2021.

Htet Htet Khine was arrested on August 15, 2021, at an apartment in Yangon along with freelance journalist 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 news reports and CPJ reporting.

Htet Htet Khine had previously hosted BBC Media Action’s “Khan Sar Kyi” or “Feel It” television news program, those reports said. BBC Media Action is an independent charity, separate from BBC News.

The arrests came in the wake of the military’s February 1, 2021, coup and subsequent protests. Since then, the military junta has engaged in an ongoing crackdown on Myanmar’s independent media, detaining and sentencing dozens of journalists.

On September 15, 2022, Htet Htet Khine was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison with labor 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” as saying that Htet Htet Khine had denied all charges against her and has not yet decided if she will appeal. Hearings in the trial were closed to the media and public, the AP report said.

On September 27, 2022, 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 Associations Act for allegedly contacting “illegal organizations,” which carried a possible three years in prison, news reports said. U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia quoted a source in the legal community confirming that she had been sentenced under Section 17(1) on September 27. 

The Section 17(1) charge alleged she worked for a banned radio station and harbored Sithu Aung Myint while he was in hiding from an arrest warrant, according to news reports.

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

On September 27, 2023, in a statement marking the one-year anniversary of Htet Htet Khine’s second conviction, BBC Media Action chief executive officer Simon Bishop said, “Journalism is not a crime … we remain very concerned for Htet Htet Khine’s safety and well-being in detention.” 

The statement said she was being held at Bago region’s Thayarwaddy Prison, a camp for political prisoners known for its harsh conditions.

The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s October 2023 emailed requests for comment on her conviction, health, and treatment in detention.