YANGON, MYANMAR (AP) — Demonstrators in Myanmar’s biggest city came out on Monday night for their first mass protests in defiance of an 8pm curfew, seeking to show support for an estimated 200 students trapped by security forces in a small area of one neighbourhood.
The students and other civilians earlier took part in one of the many daily protests across the country against the military’s seizure of power last month that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military government also placed a major curb on media coverage of the crisis. It announced that the licenses of five local media outlets — Mizzima, DVB, Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now and 7Day News — have been cancelled.
“These media companies are no longer allowed to broadcast or write or give information by using any kind of media platform or using any media technology,” it said on state broadcaster MRTV.
All five had been offering extensive coverage of the protests, often with livestreaming video online. The offices of Myanmar Now were raided by the authorities on Monday before the measure was announced.
DVB said it was not surprised by the cancellation and would continue broadcasting on satellite TV and online.
“We worry for the safety of our reporters and our staff, but in the current uprising, the whole country has become the citizens’ journalists and there is no way for military authorities to shut the information flow,” Executive Director Aye Chan Naing told The Associated Press.
The government has detained dozens of journalists since the coup, including a Myanmar Now reporter and Thein Zaw of AP, both of whom have been charged under a public order law that carried a penalty of up to three years in prison.
The night’s street protests began after police cordoned off part of Yangon’s Sanchaung neighbourhood and were believed to be conducting door-to-door searches for those who fled attacks by security forces to seek shelter in the homes of sympathetic strangers.
News of their plight spread quickly on social media, and people poured into the streets in neighbourhoods all over the city to show solidarity and in hopes of drawing some of the pressure off the hunted protesters. On some streets, they constructed makeshift barricades with whatever was at hand.