Sai Zaw Thaike, a photojournalist with the local news outlet Myanmar Now, is serving a 20-year sentence for sedition, the longest known prison penalty given to a reporter since the military staged a democracy-suspending coup in 2021.
Military authorities raided Myanmar Now’s office in Yangon shortly after the February 1, 2021, coup and later revoked the fiercely independent news outlet’s publishing license. The military junta has cracked down on Myanmar’s independent media in the years following the coup, detaining and sentencing dozens of journalists.
Sai Zaw Thaike was arrested on May 23, 2023, while covering the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha in Sittwe, the capital of western Rakhine State, which killed at least 148 people and where many members of the persecuted Rohingya minority were living in internally displaced persons camps, Myanmar Now reported.
On September 6, a military tribunal in Yangon’s Insein Prison sentenced Sai Zaw Thaike to 20 years in prison with hard labor under Section 124(a) of the colonial-era penal code, which outlines penalties for sedition, according to news reports and Myanmar Now editor-in-chief Swe Win, who communicated with CPJ by email in October.
The journalist’s initial indictment also included charges of misinformation and incitement, but he was finally convicted of only sedition, Swe Win told CPJ. Sai Zaw Thaike was not allowed access to a lawyer while in detention or during the one-day trial. He was being held at Yangon’s Insein Prison in late 2023, according to Swe Win.
The Myanmar Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s October 2023. emailed request for comment on Sai Zaw Thaike’s conviction, sentencing, health, and treatment in prison.