Myanmar: documentary filmmaker sentenced to life imprisonment, symbol of the junta's unbridled repression of the right to information
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of former journalist and documentary filmmaker Shin Daewe, who was recently sentenced to life in prison, the harshest term given to a journalist in Myanmar since the military junta regained by force its power almost three years ago.
On 10 January 2024, Shin Daewe, a Myanmar former reporter and award-winning documentary film director, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court held inside the notorious Insein prison located near Yangon, the former capital located in central Myanmar. She was handed the maximum sentence under section 50(j) of the Counter-Terrorism Law for allegedly “abetting” terrorism. It is to date, the severeness term handed down to a journalist since the junta returned to power in February 2021.
Shin Daewe, 50, was arrested and searched by soldiers on 15 October in a bus station in Yangon, while picking up a video drone she had ordered online to use in filming a documentary. During her detention, she was interrogated and allegedly subjected to torture, according to her husband, who noticed evidence of beating such as “stitches on her head and welts on her arms” during his two visits to the prison.
"By sentencing a documentary film director to life in prison under the pretext of terrorism, the military junta shows the extent of its arbitrariness and ruthlessness. We urge the international community to intensify its pressure on the Myanmar regime for her release, as well as on behalf of the 64 other journalists and press freedom defenders detained in the country.
A renowned media professional, Shin Daewe covered the political and social issues affecting her country. In the past, she worked as a video journalist for Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) before embarking on a career as a documentary filmmaker. Several of her documentaries have won international awards, including the 2013 short film Now I Am 13, which tells the story of an uneducated teenage girl in central Myanmar.
Shortly after the military coup on 1 February 2021, the junta launched a policy of terror against journalism, rapidly publishing a blacklist of banned media. Since then, four journalists have been killed by the army: the founder of the Khonumthung news agency Pu Tuidim; the editor of the Federal News Journal Sai Win Aung; and the two freelance photojournalists Soe Naing and Aye Kaw.
Myanmar, ranked 173th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists with 64 detained, second only to China.