Bangkok, May 22 (CPJ/OurVoice) – Myanmar authorities should not contest the appeal of Democratic Voice of Burma reporter Min Nyo, and should cease jailing journalists for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, a military court convicted Min Nyo on charges of criminal mutiny and sentenced him to three years in prison, according to news reports and a statement by his employer, which CPJ reviewed.
He was convicted under Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad criminal provision that penalizes the dissemination of information that could agitate or cause security forces or state officials to mutiny, according to those sources.
The court ordered him to be held at Pyay Prison, according to DVB editor-in-chief Aye Chan Naing, who told CPJ via email that the journalist plans to appeal the verdict.
“Myanmar authorities must not contest the appeal of Democratic Voice of Burma reporter Min Nyo. He should be released immediately and unconditionally, along with all the journalists held behind bars in Myanmar,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar’s junta must stop treating journalists as criminals.”
Authorities first arrested Min Nyo on March 3 in the Bago Region’s town of Pyay while he was covering anti-military protests, according to the DVB statement, which said he was “brutally beaten by police” and “seriously injured” during the arrest. Authorities held him in pretrial detention until yesterday’s hearing, according to those reports and that statement.
Myanmar’s military regime currently holds dozens of members of the press behind bars, according to preliminary data compiled by CPJ based on reporting, news reports, and research by the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a local rights group.
The majority have been detained during newsroom raids or while covering anti-coup street protests, and over half face charges under Article 505(a), that research shows.
Authorities are also holding at least three other DVB reporters, including Kaung Myat Hlaing, also known as Aung Kyaw, who has been charged under Article 505(a) and is expected to face trial this month, according to Aye Chan Naing. Two others are being held without charge, he said, adding that they preferred not to disclose their names.
Three DVB reporters are also being held in Thailand, where they fled in March after the military revoked DVB’s operating license; CPJ has called on Thai authorities to refrain from sending them back to Myanmar, where they would likely face arrest and detention.
On April 6, CPJ addressed a public letter to junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing calling on his regime to release all journalists detained in the wake of the February 1 coup.
CPJ emailed the Ministry of Information for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.