Myanmar journalist Toe Aung, a former reporter for 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 was 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.
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, according to Nyan Linn Htet.
Toe Aung was transferred to Kengtung prison in eastern Shan State, where he was serving his sentence as of late 2022. He was not suffering from any abuse or health issues in prison, Nyan Linn Htet said.
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 managing editor Nyan Linn Htet was charged under 505(a), causing him to flee the country with his family.
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 emailed request for comment on Htun Aung’s conviction, sentencing, and situation in prison.