Toe Aung

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Myanmar journalist Toe Aung, a former reporter for the independent outlet Mekong News, is serving a three-year prison 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 March 2, 2022, Toe Aung was arrested by authorities in Tachileik, Shan State, and charged by the city’s Hong Leik Police Station under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes incitement and the dissemination of false news, according to Mekong News managing editor Nyan Linn Htet, who communicated with CPJ by email.

The journalist’s arrest 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.

On July 6, 2022, a Tachileik court convicted and sentenced him to three years in prison under 505(a), the maximum penalty allowed under the anti-state provision, Nyan Linn Htet said. 

Toe Aung’s sentencing was also reported in databases compiled by the rights group the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners and the Detained Journalists Information Myanmar private Facebook group, which CPJ reviewed. 

Toe Aung was transferred after his conviction to Kengtung prison in eastern Shan State, where he is serving his sentence. He was not suffering from any abuse or health issues in prison, Nyan Linn Htet told CPJ in October 2023 via messaging app.

Toe Aung officially resigned from his position as an editor at Mekong News in April 2021 and stopped reporting after going into hiding for over a month after Nyan Linn Htet was charged under 505(a), causing him to flee the country with his family. Authorities banned Mekong News after the military seized power in a February 1, 2021, coup, according to Nyan Linn Htet.

Toe Aung did not initially want Mekong News to publicize his arrest so as not to jeopardize negotiations with authorities for his release. He was convicted for his journalism, according to Nyan Linn Htet, including pre-coup reports on the region’s illegal opium trade and post-coup reports on the regime’s surveillance of anti-military activists online. 

Myanmar’s Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s October 2023 emailed request for comment on Toe Aung’s conviction, sentencing, health, and situation in prison.