Zayar Times reporter Pyae Phyo Aung is serving a two-year sentence 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 January 6, 2022, a Shwebo Prison court convicted and sentenced him under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes incitement and the dissemination of false news, according to a database compiled by the local rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.
Pyae Phyo Aung was arrested by police on October 11, 2021, at a Buddhist monastery shortly after joining the monkhood and is being held in pretrial detention at Sagaing Township’s No. 1 police station, according to Myanmar Now.
Myanmar Now had reported that he also faced terrorism charges, which carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence, but a lawyer helping with his case was quoted anonymously in a separate report after Pyae Phyo Aung’s conviction saying he did not face any other charges.
Pyae Phyo Aung’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.
Zayar Times website, established in 2017, covers local news in the Sagaing Region, according to a post on the Detained Journalists Information of Myanmar Facebook group, which CPJ reviewed.
The news publication has closed down since the coup, according to a Myanmar Now report. CPJ’s messages to Zayar Times over Facebook messenger and email went unanswered.
He was being held at Sagaing’s Shwebo Prison in late 2022, according to the association’s data.
The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment sent in late 2022 for comment on Pyae Phyo Aung’s conviction, sentencing and situation in detention.