Newspaper editor is paranoid Burmese junta’s latest media victim
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of a Burmese newspaper editor who was arrested after blacking out his Facebook profile photo in a discreet comment on a massacre of civilians.
Kyaw Min Swe, the editor of Aasan, a newspaper that was forced to close immediately after the military coup in February 2021, was arrested ten days ago at his home in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, although his arrest was kept secret until today (21 April).
According to information reported online today and confirmed by RSF, he has been charged under Section 505A of the penal code, under which the publication of content that expresses hostility towards Myanmar’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, is punishable by three years in prison.
Kyaw Min Swe was arrested on 11 April shortly after turning his Facebook profile photo into a black square in a comment about an air strike earlier that day on Pazi Gyi, a village in the centre of the country, that killed at least 171 people, mainly civilians. For this “hostile” content, he is now facing up to three years in prison.
“Kyaw Min Swe’s arrest is emblematic of how, in a country that submits journalists to the most abject form of terror, you can end up in prison for posting nothing more than a black square, the most basic form of journalistic comment. The desire to erase any allusion to their atrocities is one of the characteristics of war criminals. Myanmar’s military junta is displaying its cruellest face, that of a desperate regime whose paranoid persecution of journalists knows no limits.
The executive director of the Living Colour Media group and editor of its newspaper Aasan (The Voice), Kyaw Min Swe had to stop publishing Aasan after the February 2021 coup by the military, who immediately banned most independent media outlets.
After two years of military dictatorship, Myanmar has become the world’s second biggest jailer of journalists, second only to China. The escalating terror deployed against independent media, which RSF recently described, explains why Myanmar is now ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF's World Press Freedom Index.