DMG staff sentenced in Myanmar: RSF condemns relentless crackdown on the independent outlet

The Myanmar regime is ruthlessly targeting every employee of the independent media Development Media Group and two staff members, Htet Aung and Soe Win Aung, have been falsely accused of supporting terrorist activities and sentenced to five years in prison with hard labour. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this unjust conviction on charges that are repeatedly used to silence journalists. The international community must increase pressure on Myanmar’s military regime to stop its relentless repression of the country’s media.

Htet Aung and Soe Win Aung, journalist and security guard respectively for the independent news website Development Media Group (DMG), were sentenced to five years in prison with hard labour by a court in Sittwe, a city in western Myanmar, on 28 June 2024 under Article 52 of the Counter Terrorism Law, which punishes the "support or financing of terrorist activities." The unfair conviction followed an unfair trial: no evidence of their complicity in terrorism was presented; the defendants' families were not allowed to attend the trial; and the verdict was not made public. Their only wrongdoing was working for a media outlet that covered abuses by the military regime in the west of the country. 

The two men were arrested on 29 October 2023. The Myanmar military first arrested Htet Aung, who was covering a cultural festival in Sittwe, before raiding DMG’s offices, which led to the arrest of Soe Win Aung and the forced closure of the media outlet. The other employees are being actively sought by the military and forced to continue their work underground.

"By ruthlessly targeting an independent media outlet that exposes military crimes, accusing all its employees of terrorism — a charge that has become commonly used to silence journalists — and imprisoning them after an unfair trial, the Myanmar regime once again demonstrates its total contempt for press freedom. We call on the international community to intensify pressure on the Myanmar regime to quickly release Htet Aung, Soe Win Aung, as well as all journalists and press freedom defenders detained in the country, and to finally put an end to these outrageous repressive methods.

Cédric Alviani
Director of RSF’s Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

Terrorism: a repeated accusation against journalists

Since the beginning of 2024, a growing number of Myanmar journalists have been convicted of alleged terrorism. Thura Aung, a journalist from the independent news site The People's Voice, was sentenced to three years in prison in May, while Yan Naing Soe, a reporter for Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB)was sentenced to four years in prison in March for "communicating with news agencies by phone." Two months earlier, former journalist and documentary filmmaker Shin Daewe, accused of buying a drone to film a documentary, was also convicted under the Counter-Terrorism Law. Her life sentence is the harshest penalty imposed on a journalist since the junta's return to power.

The 2021 military coup shattered Myanmar's media landscape. The junta quickly issued a list of banned media outlets, including the emblematic DVB. In just three years, Myanmar has become one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists. Sixty-three reporters are currently detained and five journalists have been killed by the army: two freelance photojournalists Aye Kaw and Soe Naingfounder of the Khonumthung Media Group news agency Pu Tuidimeditor of the Federal News Journal Sai Win Aung; and DVB reporter Myat Thu Tun.

The country now ranks 171st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2024 World Press Freedom Index.

171/ 180
Score : 24.41
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