Six journalists charged for coverage of anti-coup protests in Myanmar

Naypyitaw, Mar 5 (Agency) Myanmar authorities have charged six journalists for their coverage of anti-coup protests in Myanmar. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls for the immediate release of all detained journalists and reminds the military of its obligations to respect media freedom, an International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report said on friday. This week, six journalists were charged under the country’s public order law for allegedly “causing fear, spreading false news or agitating directly or indirectly a government employee”.

All were arrested by Myanmar authorities at protests on February 27 and 28, when at least ten journalists detained. Those charged include Thein Zaw, a photographer for Associated Press (AP) who was taken into custody in Yangon on February 27. The five other journalists are from a range of local media outlets including Myanmar Now, 7Day News, Myanmar Photo Agency, Zee Kwet and a freelancer. AP has released a video since Zaw’s arrest showing him being held in a chokehold while being arrested. Zaw’s lawyer said he could be detained until March 12 without another hearing or further action. Myanmar’s public order law was hastily amended last month, when the military junta broadened its scope and increasing the maximum sentence from two to three years’ jail.

The media arrests follow a week of increased violence across Myanmar at protest sites. February 3 was described as the ‘bloodiest day’ since protests began, with 38 people killed. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said in a statement: “Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protesters”. The commission said more than 1,700 people had been arbitrarily detained in the recent protests, including at least 29 journalists. The IFJ said, “The arrests of journalists as they report in the field across Myanmar is deeply troubling. What is worse is what is not seen when they are taken into detention. The IFJ stands in solidarity with its media workers in Myanmar and calls for the military to respect the public’s fundamental right to information and immediately release all journalist currently in detention.”