Myanmar freelance journalist Sithu Aung Myint is serving a three-year sentence for criminal incitement, a charge Myanmar’s military regime has used widely to stifle independent news reporting since staging a democracy-suspending coup in 2021.
On October 7, 2022, a court in Yangon’s Insein Prison convicted and sentenced Sithu Aung Myint under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes incitement and the dissemination of false news, according to multiple news reports and CPJ’s reporting.
Sithu Aung Myint, a contributor to U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America and the local Frontier Myanmar, was arrested by military authorities on August 15, 2021, in the commercial capital of Yangon while trying to evade a warrant for his arrest, according to a report in The Irrawaddy.
He was arrested along with fellow journalist Htet Htet Khine while in hiding in Yangon’s Bahan Township, according to The Irrawaddy. Htet Htet Khine was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison with hard labor in September 2022, according to multiple news reports and a statement by BBC Media Action, where she served as a freelance producer.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Sithu Aung Myint in April 2021 for incitement and allegedly spreading false news under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a provision which carries a maximum three-year prison sentence.
He also faces “defamation of the state” charges under Article 124(a) of the penal code, according to news reports. The sedition provision, which prohibits “any attempt to cause hatred, contempt and disaffection” towards the military or government, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
His 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, according to those sources and CPJ research.
The military-run media said Sithu Aung Myint also posted articles on Facebook criticizing the regime’s governing body, the State Administrative Council, inciting government employees to participate in civil disobedience, and backing the opposition National Unity Government, which the coup regime declared a terrorist organization, The Irrawaddy report said.
Frontier Myanmar CEO Sonny Swe told CPJ by messaging app that Sithu Aung Myint is being held at Yangon’s Insein Prison. The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request sent in late 2022 for comment on the charges against Sithu Aung Myint and his detention.