Myanmar junta jails journalist using colonial-era law

YANGON (AFP) – A Myanmar journalist who live-streamed his detention by junta forces was jailed for two years on Wednesday, his employers said, as the military continues its crackdown on critical reporting.

Aung Kyaw, who worked for Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was sentenced in the southern city of Myeik, the outlet said, under a colonial-era law that criminalises encouraging dissent against the military.

The junta revised the law soon after its February 1 coup to include spreading “fake news” as a crime.

Security forces conducted a nighttime raid on Aung Kyaw’s house in March, days after he covered a brutal crackdown on anti-junta protests in Myeik.

He live-streamed his own arrest on DVB’s official Facebook page, with the chaotic footage showing loud bangs outside his apartment building. “Please don’t terrorise,” he pleaded in the video. “If you are shooting like this, how will I come down?”

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, triggering a mass uprising as large swathes of the population took to the streets.

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon. PHOTO: AFP

The junta responded with force – shooting protesters, arresting suspected dissidents in night raids, and targetting journalists and news outlets by shutting them down.

According to the Reporting ASEAN monitoring group, 87 journalists have been arrested since the coup, with 51 still in detention.

“The military junta is illegally detaining Aung Kyaw,” DVB said in a statement on Wednesday calling for his release.

“This is a clear violation of both national and international laws by the Burmese junta.”

Several foreign journalists have been detained and United States (US) citizen Danny Fenster was held while attempting to leave the country on May 24.

The Frontier Myanmar news outlet he worked for said on Monday it had yet to receive any information on his whereabouts or well-being, a week after he was arrested.

A well-known news organisation within Myanmar, DVB started as an exile media outlet during the previous junta prior to 2011, broadcasting uncensored reports on TV and radio.

The junta revoked its broadcast licence in March, sending its journalists into hiding.

Despite this setback, it has continued to report, posting regular Facebook updates – as well as broadcasting on satellite TV – about the daily protests and crackdowns.