Pyae Phyo Thu, a freelance reporter who contributes to the local news outlet The Irrawaddy, is serving a three-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.
In the wake of the military’s February 1, 2021, coup and subsequent protests, the junta has engaged in an ongoing crackdown on Myanmar’s independent media, detaining and sentencing dozens of journalists.
Pyae Phyo Thu was arrested on September 13, 2022, while covering an anti-coup flash protest in Yangon’s Kyimyindaing township, according to The Irrawaddy editor-in-chief Aung Zaw, who communicated with CPJ via email. The journalist’s family had negotiated with Yangon police authorities and paid their brokers de facto bribes–collected outside the legal process–for his release; however, they ultimately refused to free him in January 2023, said Aung Zaw, who received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2014.
On March 29, 2023, an Insein Prison court convicted and sentenced Pyae Phyo Thu under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes incitement and the dissemination of false news, according to a U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia report and Aung Zaw.
Pyae Phyo Thu was not included in CPJ’s 2022 prison census because CPJ was not aware of his arrest and detention at the time.
Pyae Phyo Thu was being held in Insein Prison under unclear prison conditions in late October 2023, Aung Zaw said.
The Myanmar Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Pyae Phyo Thu’s conviction, sentencing, and status in prison in October 2023.