The three journalists – chief editor Kyaw Zaw Lin, chief reporter Nayi Min and senior editor Phyo Wai Win – are facing up to two years in prison under article 505 (b) of Myanmar’s penal code, which penalizes the publication of reports that could cause “fear or alarm to the public.”
Charged with “showing disrespect toward the Yangon regional government,” they have been placed in Yangon’s Insein prison and, under article 505 (b), have no possibility of being freed on bail.
“We call for the immediate release of these three Eleven Media journalists,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Imprisoning journalists in connection with their work is unacceptable in a country that claims to be transitioning to democracy. This kind of meddling takes Myanmar one step further away from the rule of law and respect for press freedom.”
Loss of journalistic independence
The Eleven Media Group, which publishes five weeklies, has played a fundamental role in the emergence of a civil society in Myanmar and was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2011.
Today’s arrests of three senior Eleven Media journalists of long standing will inevitably fuel concern about the loss of journalistic independence in Myanmar and is likely to encourage even more self-censorship.
As a result of the growing concern, RSF last week issued an “incident report” about the threat to Myanmar’s position in the World Press Freedom Index, in which it is currently ranked 137th out of 180 countries.