Myanmar junta imposes record 20-year jail sentence on photojournalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of Myanmar photojournalist Sai Zaw Thaike, who was recently sentenced to a 20-year prison sentence, the longest given to a journalist in Myanmar since the military junta regained its power in February 2021.
On 6 September 2023, Sai Zaw Thaike, a photojournalist for the independent media Myanmar Now, was sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labour by a military court held inside the notorious Insein prison in Yangon, a former Myanmar capital. The forty-year-old photojournalist was charged under four charges, including misinformation and sedition, which is widely used to persecute journalists.
“Despite the climate of fear that the junta has imposed on journalists, Sai Zaw Thaike has continued his reporting, serving the public interest, and he should be treated as a hero rather than persecuted by the authorities. We call on the international community to step up its pressure on the Myanmar regime for the release of Sai Zaw Thaike as well as all the other 69 journalists and press freedom defenders detained in the country.
Sai Zaw Thaike was arrested on 23 May 2023 in Rakhine State, western Myanmar, while covering the aftermath of cyclone Mocha, which caused the death of at least 148 people and damaged more than 186,000 buildings. Detained for his “connections with illegal news outlets”, the photojournalist has been held in pre-trial detention for three months without access to a lawyer and was denied family visits.
"[Sai Zaw Thaike’s] sentencing is yet another indication that freedom of the press has been completely quashed under the military junta's rule, and shows the hefty price independent journalists in Myanmar must pay for their professional work.
Although Myanmar Now was among the five media banned shortly after the Myanmar military junta regained its power since the coup on 1 February 2021, it continues to operate from exile. A video reporter for the same media, Kay Zon Nway, was arrested while live-streaming a protest on 27 February 2021, and was placed in provisional detention in Insein prison for four months. A week after his arrest, junta soldiers raided Myanmar Now’s office in downtown Yangon.
Myanmar, ranked 173th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is the world’s second biggest jailer of journalists, second only to China.