News

May 31, 2021

RSF asks Germany to let Myanmar journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu apply for asylum

In this file photo taken on December 18, 2017 Myanmar reporter Mratt Kyaw Thu poses at his office in Yangon. Persecuted by his country's military junta, he might have to travel to Spain on June 1, 2021 to seek asylum after spending four weeks in a detention center in Germany (photo : Ye Aung Thu / AFP).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is campaigning for journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu from Myanmar to be allowed to apply for asylum in Germany. The 31-year-old fled Myanmar after the regime there issued an arrest warrant for him on 5 April. Mratt Kyaw Thu is one of the few journalists in Myanmar who is openly critical of the regime. Among other things, he exposed instances of targeted disinformation by the military when it seized control of the country on 1 February. He is currently detained at Frankfurt airport.

"Since the Myanmar military put Mratt Kyaw Thu on a wanted list because of his critical reporting, his life has been in acute danger and he was forced to flee," said Katja Gloger, Executive Spokeswoman for RSF Germany. "We call on the Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer to take responsibility for Mratt Kyaw Thu's asylum procedure."


The journalist was able to obtain a Schengen visa at the Spanish embassy of one of Myanmar's neighbouring countries, but decided to enter Germany during a stopover in Frankfurt. Thanks, among other things, to a three-week stay in Germany on a Goethe-Institut programme, he has many contacts and is well connected there. When he arrived at Frankfurt airport, he applied for asylum. However, he was refused entry and a Dublin Procedure was initiated, because under the Dublin Regulation he is obliged to file his application in the country of destination, in his case Spain.


At the same time, at the request of the federal police, on 24 April 2021 the Frankfurt District Court issued an order for him to be put into preventive detention. Since that date Mratt Kyaw Thu has been living in a closed refugee accommodation centre at the airport. He had to hand over his mobile phone to the police, he has no internet access and he can only speak to a handful of people.


Germany can take responsibility for the asylum procedure


Article 17 (1) of the Dublin III Regulation provides an EU member state with the possibility, known as the sovereignty clause, to declare itself responsible for processing an asylum procedure even though it would normally not be responsible for this process. So far Germany has systematically applied the sovereignty clause for asylum seekers who entered the country via Greece and for Syrian asylum seekers. In the case of Mratt Kyaw Thu, too, many circumstances speak in favour of applying this possibility.


A broad alliance of people and organizations supporting him argue that granting a journalist like him a place where he can be safe would be a good move not only from a human rights perspective, but also as regards gaining a deeper understanding of the anti-democratic developments in Myanmar. Few journalists are as well connected as he is in the country. International media rely on his knowledge and analysis of the situation there. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle has already offered him a paid internship, and the daily paper tageszeitung (taz) has offered him work on a freelance basis.


RSF published an exclusive interview with Mratt Kyaw Thu last April, in which he explained his dreadful working conditions in %yanmar before he left the country. He became known internationally as one of the few Myanmar journalists to report critically on the persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority by the country's military in 2017. He received the AFP news agency's Kate Webb Prize for his coverage of the crackdown. Since the military coup on 1 February, he has taken the lead in reporting on the pro-democracy movement against the military junta, the Civil Disobedience Movement. He provides daily updates to more than 250,000 people via his Twitter and Telegram channels.


Since the military coup in February there have been numerous serious violations of press freedom in Myanmar. Reporters have been shot at with live ammunition, editorial offices have been raided, and mobile internet has been completely shut down on several occasions.


Myanmar is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index