Myanmar reporter gets six-year sentence on terrorism charge

Maung Maung Myo, a freelance reporter held in Myanmar since May, has been sentenced to six years in prison on a terrorism charge for covering his country’s civil war. Alarmed by the frenetic pace with which the military regime is now convicting journalists, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for his immediate release and for his conviction to be quashed.

Although his only crime was trying to inform his fellow citizens, a court in Hpa-An, the capital of the eastern state of Kayin, convicted Maung Maung Myo on 29 July of violating Section 52 (a) of Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism Law, which penalises undefined “terrorist” acts.

He has been held in a Hpa-An prison since 10 May, when he set off for the central city Mandalay but was stopped at a checkpoint at the Salween River by police, who used his phone to get into his Facebook account, finding references to articles he had written for media outlets banned by the military junta that took power in a coup in February 2021.

They also found photos and other evidence of Maung Maung Myo’s contacts with members of the People’s Defence Force (PDF), an organisation formed by supporters of the ousted civilian government who believe in armed resistance to the military.

“After a phase following the coup in which journalists were subjected to arrests and systematic violence, the military junta has embarked on a series of trials in recent weeks,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We urge Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, to address the persecution of journalists and to take action to put an end to this alarming new trend.”

A regular reporter for the Mekong News agency and the Human Color website, Maung Maung Myo covered politically sensitive stories including the Covid-19 pandemic, anti-junta protests and clashes between the army and the PDF in Kayin state.

Two other journalists who had been held for several months were convicted on "terrorism" and "false news" charges in July. Aung San Lin was sentenced to six years in prison while Nyein Nyein Aye, a woman journalist, was given a three-year sentence.

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