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August 13, 2019 - Updated on August 14, 2019

RSF refers Myanmar journalist’s arbitrary detention to UN

Nanda will begin his fourth month in detention on 15 August, 2019 (photo : Channel Mandalay / Facebook).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has asked the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to look into the case of Aung Kyi Myint, a video-reporter who will begin his fourth month in detention on trumped-up charges in Myanmar’s central Mandalay region tomorrow.

“He is desperate to the point of wanting to start a hunger strike,” RSF was told by Min Din, the editor of Channel Mandalay TV, for which Aung Kyi Myint reports using the name of “Nanda.”

 

Arrested on 15 May while providing live coverage of a demonstration on social networks, Nanda is accused of violence against police and soldiers, supposedly with the help of a stick, although there is no evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, the video he was filming at the time of his arrest shows police officers beating protesters

 

He was held for a month before being formally charged – probably on the orders of Col. Kyaw Kyaw Min, the Mandalay region’s security and border affairs minister – and he is facing a possible combined sentence of 17 years in prison.

 

“We urge the UN Working Group’s investigators to take up this flagrant case of arbitrary detention,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The 500 days that Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo spent in prison were a shocking demonstration of the degree to which Myanmar’s justice system does the arbitrary bidding of the security forces. This is why we must not forget the other Burmese journalists who, like Nanda, are in prison just for doing their job.”

 

International pressure

 

Video footage shot during the demonstration clearly shows Nanda with a camera in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. At no point is he seen behaving in a hostile manner. On the basis of this evidence, Channel Mandalay TV referred the case to Myanmar’s Press Council, which is supposed to arbitrate complaints involving journalists.

 

Unfortunately, the Press Council lacks any real independence and simply issued a statement deploring the "inappropriate" nature of the proceedings against him. The absence of any follow-up action underscores the need for international pressure so that Nanda can finally be released.

 

After falling seven places in the past two years, Myanmar is ranked 138th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.