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‘I’m fine’: Myanmar secret military journalists | Human Rights

Three months ago, I was he is forced to leave Myanmar, a place I had been in my hometown for about ten years.

Following the military coup on February 1, violent protests and mass arrests prevented them from continuing to work as a journalist there.

Ine went to the airport early in the morning. The streets were quiet, but signs of unrest that had occurred just a few hours earlier were all around us. Brick dust gripped the red streets. Wire, concrete barriers and large orange debris were scattered on the streets – remnants of what protesters used to try to protect themselves from threats by security forces and their bullets. The walls and its fragments were filled with inscriptions – three-finger greetings and insults that denounced rebellion against the government and military leaders.

It was a mental journey. I was leaving my friends and loved ones behind so that when I encountered a problem that only seemed to get worse, as I returned to safety and security in the United Kingdom.

I had to worry. A few weeks after my departure, several of my friends and acquaintances were arrested. Myanmar State TV channel began airing a list of people being arrested every day. As the number increased, more well-known names began to appear. Celebrities, politicians and politicians, people I met and interviewed, and journalists – friends and acquaintances.

Most of the plaintiffs have been prosecuted under the newly amended section 505A of the Penal Code, which encourages anyone who promotes disobedience to the law.

Following the February 1 bomb attack in Myanmar, massacres and arrests took place [Ali Fowle/Al Jazeera]

“I’m just disappointed he didn’t use a good photo of me,” a friend wrote in a text message after seeing his name added to the list. Like the others, they made the decision to hide quickly, before the permit was announced – so I knew they were fine. “I look so bad in the picture!” She complained to the motor.

Like many of my friends, she always gives a good answer when she has problems. Her uplifting thoughts make it easy to forget all she left behind. His family, his dogs, his friends, his job. He was a well-known TV presenter and is now hiding in the woods, washing his clothes in a river and fighting biting insects. “You know me Ali, I love the trip,” he assured me. “Still, I can walk and swim. As long as I don’t think about what will happen next or how long I will stay, I’m happy. ”

Some have never experienced such a crisis. One of his friends cried as he described all that was left of him, and described how he and his friends slept in the woods and drank from the rivers on their journey. There are now repetitive sites across the country, and for well-known TV journalists with well-known names and faces, crossing is not possible. They are forced to walk through forest trails and to conflict zones for their own protection.

I still communicate with people in Myanmar almost every day – socializing with my friends and connecting with people as part of my stories. After ten years of working in Myanmar, journalists and activists became my close friends there. Many have chosen to flee and hide. For security reasons, we use encrypted software to communicate, but people have also begun to change their numbers, and accounts suddenly disappear. Sometimes my contacts are silent for several days or weeks. It can be hard not to be afraid of what is bad. When I find them, I have learned on a little exchange to stop asking people where they are. “I can’t say where I am but I can say I’m somewhere safe,” a colleague assured me recently, the simple sound of cicadas in the background informing him that he was no longer in the city.

For those who did not find somewhere safe in his time, many I know are being held in Insein prison, refusing to communicate with friends, relatives or acquaintances. One prison woman tells me that every day brings uncertainty. She is afraid that she has spoken out loud against the authorities on the phone but tells me that she feels helpless. “If I could have delayed, I would have been silent in January. Because this is not what everyone wants. ”

In the picture from April 17, 2021, relatives and friends of the inmates are waiting outside the Insein prison in Yangon, where most of Myanmar’s military detainees are being held [Reuters]

More than 6,000 people have been arrested since the government took over, and journalists are one of the main opposition groups. Local and foreign journalists were arrested. Some were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night, others were arrested at the airport or at the same time reporting cases, or beating them up while harassing them at their offices. A journalist friend I know was arrested at her home along with her son, a teenager I still think of as a child.

Myanmar is breaking away from the newspapers as the interest of the world is declining, but for many of my friends, their lives have been completely changed.

After 14 days of unanswered at the beginning of May, one of my roommates suddenly appeared on my phone.

“Wawa.” It came from Facebook messenger, a platform that many people have been avoiding due to insecurity. I was scared if it was really him but soon a video call came on. He tells me that he has been running away for two weeks and has not been able to connect with many people. He got somewhere, even for a while, he says.

I have a lot of questions but I know it is dangerous to ask. It is good that few people know where they are. But obviously he is willing to share the problem – he tells me he has to give up everything he has. He has two coats and a small briefcase. But he is wise.

“We need to change,” he says. “It’s better than being tortured.”

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