Myanmar journalist Myo San Soe is serving a 15-year prison sentence on terrorism charges, a charge Myanmar’s military regime has used broadly to stifle independent news reporting since staging a democracy-suspending coup in 2021.
Authorities detained Myo San Soe, a freelance reporter who contributed to the local Delta News Agency and Ayeyarwaddy Times, in the Ayeyarwady region’s Pyapon township on August 29, 2021, according to an employee of the Delta News Agency who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Myo San Soe was doing charity work related to the COVID-19 pandemic when he was detained, according to a report, which CPJ reviewed, by the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners Burma, a local human rights organization.
Authorities then allegedly found evidence of his contacts with the People’s Defense Forces, an array of insurgent groups that are fighting Myanmar’s military regime, on his phone, according to that report.
Myo San Soe had covered the People’s Defense Forces before his arrest, the Delta News Agency employee said, adding that authorities had not contacted the outlet at the time of his detention.
On November 30, 2022, a court inside Pyapon Prison, in the Ayeyarwady region, sentenced Myo San Soe to 15 years in prison on charges of violating Sections 50(j) and 52(a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law over his alleged contact with the People’s Defense Forces, according to news reports and the Delta News Agency employee. He was ordered to serve his sentence at Pathein Prison, according to reports.
Authorities banned the Delta News Agency and filed anti-state charges against its top editors soon after the military seized power in a February 1, 2021, coup, forcing the news organization to relocate to a perceived safe area of Kayin state controlled by rebels, the employee told CPJ.
Myo San Soe had stopped working as a Delta News Agency staff reporter by mid-2021 but continued to file news about the Ayeyarwady region as a freelancer, including a report published approximately one week before his arrest, the Delta News Agency employee told CPJ.
The Myanmar Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Myo San Soe’s conviction, sentencing, and status in prison.
Myo San Soe was not included on the 2021 census because CPJ could not confirm the details of his case at the time.