Myanmar freelance photographer Ma Thuzar, a contributor to the local Myanmar Pressphoto Agency, is serving a two-year sentence for incitement, an anti-state charge Myanmar’s military regime has used broadly to stifle independent news reporting since staging a democracy-suspending coup in 2021.
On November 22, 2022, a court inside Yangon’s Insein Prison convicted and sentenced Ma Thuzar to two years in prison with hard labor under Article 505(a) of the penal code, which criminalizes incitement and the dissemination of “false news”, according to news reports and J Paing, Myanmar Pressphoto Agency’s chief editor, who communicated with CPJ via email.
Ma Thuzar was arrested by police in the commercial capital of Yangon on September 1, 2021, on initially unclear accusations, according to a report by U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America report.
Ma Thuzar, who has also contributed to the local Friday Times News Journal, was held incommunicado for five days before authorities confirmed her arrest, according to the Voice of America report.
J Paing told CPJ that Ma Thuzar was held at the Shwe Pyi Thar interrogation center of Military Prison No.1 before being moved to the military’s Aung Thapyay interrogation center, both in Yangon. She was being held in Yangon’s Insein Prison in late 2022, according to J Paing.
Local reports quoted the reporter’s husband, Ko Ye Ko, as saying that she went into hiding after soldiers and police raided her home in May while she was away. They arrested and detained the husband for five days before releasing him, these reports said.
Ma Thuzar’s 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.
Before she went into hiding, Ma Thuzar reportedly filmed live videos of street protests against the military coup that were carried on Friday Times News Journal news outlet.
News reports suggested those broadcasts contributed to the publication’s closure on April 16, 2021. CPJ’s review of the outlet’s Facebook page confirmed it stopped publication on that date.
The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request sent in late 2022 for comment on Ma Thuzar’s legal status and the reason for her detention.