Myanmar freelance journalist Sithu Aung Myint is serving a 12-year sentence on anti-state and false news charges. He was convicted under three provisions of the penal code used widely by Myanmar’s military regime to stifle independent news reporting since staging a democracy-suspending coup in 2021.
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 worked as a freelance producer.
The arrests came in the wake of the military’s February 1, 2021, coup and subsequent protests. Since then, the military junta has engaged in an ongoing crackdown on Myanmar’s independent media, detaining and sentencing dozens of journalists.
The military-run media said Sithu Aung Myint 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 reported.
On October 7, 2022, a court in Yangon’s Insein Prison convicted and sentenced Sithu Aung Myint to three years in prison 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. On November 24, he was sentenced to an additional two years for a separate incitement charge of denigrating the military, news reports said.
In 2023, Sithu Aung Myint was allowed to take medication for various ailments and receive dry foods sent by his family every two weeks, according to Frontier Myanmar chief executive officer Sonny Swe, who communicated with CPJ via email in late October. Swe said the journalist was still being held at Yangon’s Insein Prison and that there was no change in his legal status.
The Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s October 2023 emailed request for comment on Sithu Aung Myint’s conviction, legal status, health, and treatment in detention.