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In 2021, Myanmar journalists risked their lives to cover up the plot | War Stories

On March 8, journalists Nathan Maung and Hanthar Nyein marched to their headquarters in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, to retrieve some weapons, fearing that the country’s new regime would order the destruction of Kamayut Media, an online publication. men were co-initiated.

We thought he would come into the office in the evening or at night. If we had only 30 minutes to run, ”says Maung, a Myanmar citizen in the United States.

“No one explained anything. He just asked for my name and age, took a picture, put his eyes on our heads, put us in a police car and drove for 30 minutes. Then our persecution started, “he said.

Maung said security guards blindfolded him and a severe beating for the first three or four days. He was not allowed to sleep or eat, and the beatings lessened when he realized he was a US citizen. His eyelids were removed after eight days.

The 44-year-old boy spent three months in the infamous Insein prison in Yangon release.

US journalist Nathan Maung is detained at the infamous Insein prison in Yangon for three months [File: Handout via Reuters]

Hanthar Nyein, who turned 40 on Christmas Day, is still in prison.

“I hate it when I can see that she is real [spending] his 40th birthday in prison, is very difficult for me and his family. They did not see the face of his nephew, who was born in April, ”said Maung.

Journalist killed

The two were among the more than 100 journalists arrested after Myanmar’s military coup overthrew force on February 1, alleging electoral fraud that restored the National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 2020. their authority.

During this time, Myanmar journalists have risked their lives and their freedom to report on human rights abuses by the military.

On December 14, the artist himself Soe Naing became the first journalist to be assassinated since the coup, reportedly died “during interrogation” while in military prisons.

Myanmar has been around too was elected The world’s second-largest journalist guard this year, behind China alone, has been sentenced to 26 years in prison since December.

“Things are much more complicated than they say,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“A number of journalists, including American Danny Fenster, were released before the census a few months after their incarceration and CPJ research suggests that there may be others in prison who are not identified as journalists.”

Fenster, who worked for Frontier Myanmar magazine, was arrested in March by release in November, receiving pardon days after being sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Some foreign journalists arrested and released by a Polish journalist Robert Bociaga, who is said to have been beaten and jailed during a protest rally in Shan state in March and evicted two weeks later.

But local journalists have no chance.

This month, three journalists from the Shan State Kanbawza Tai News were judgment to three years’ imprisonment in accordance with Article 505 (a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, a criminal case known as a military weapon against freedom fighters and journalists.

Cape Diamond, a Myanmar-based journalist based in Yangon who works independently in other countries, said journalists who support local journalists are at high risk.

“Foreigners do not consider themselves to be important. I don’t really see their names mentioned, but they are the ones to be commended, ”he said.

‘Slow progress’

The February insurgency has fueled Myanmar’s fragile transition to democracy that began with multi-party elections in 2015, after nearly 50 years of military rule. Prior to the seizure, the country took action against journalists’ rights, but journalists still faced numerous restrictions.

“We have never had freedom of the press in Myanmar. Yes, we had a little flexibility, but it was not free, “said Diamond, pointing out that several journalists had been arrested and charged under the NLD government led by Nobel Prize-winning Aung San Suu Kyi.

Notable examples of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists detained after revealing the killing of Rohingya troops in Rakhine State in 2017. Aung San Suu Kyi have been criticized by nations around the world for defending military crackdown on minority groups lachi Muslim. as a legitimate anti-terrorist activity, while human rights organizations claim to be genocide.

He also defended the arrest of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in September 2018, clinging he was not arrested because he was a journalist ”.

He appealed to the people to read the court’s verdict, which found them guilty of serious wrongdoing despite police brutality. he agreed journalists were established.

Although the freedom of the press in Myanmar has grown significantly before, “now, obviously we have no change at all”, Diamond said.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also stated that the withdrawal of troops “has delayed the immediate development and repatriation of Myanmar journalists for 10 years”.

‘They do not know about us’

Today, journalists are increasingly being harassed by the military, which is trying to discriminate between journalists and political opponents. In addition to the arrests and torture, several journalists have been injured in the coverage of the protests.

In March, a journalist from Frontier Myanmar was applauded as he recorded a demonstration in Mandalay. In December, two journalists were injured, one seriously, while a soldier planted a truck on a small protest group in Yangon, killing five.

“They don’t care if you are a journalist or a protester,” said Diamond, recalling some of the violent protests that he had survived.

“After everyone had run away, we jumped out of our car and were followed by a special Branch in uniform, with our vehicle registration number. That is why we had to be low and out for a few days and keep the car within a few weeks, ”he said.

Diamond said journalists cannot carry a camera, because it makes them a target. They should also be on the lookout for surveillance throughout the city as well as for midnight terrorists. The military has also imposed restrictions on families’ overnight stays, but many politically active individuals have sought refuge, making them extremely intimidating.

After his arrest, Maung, editor-in-chief of Kamayut Media, said he was shocked by the lack of security he did not know about, as well as many journalists.

“They arrested us and do not know about us. It is very different from the Khin Nyunt era when the military knows everything, “said Maung, referring to a spy under the previous military regime.

Maung said those who repeatedly asked him about foreign currency and were outraged by the Reuters article that Kamayut posted on his website. He had to explain to them the idea of ​​wire work for them.

Diamond said he had two “close friends” who had been arrested and released since the conspiracy but refused to identify them. Although someone was also asked about foreign currency, many journalists today are “asked if they have any connection to the disarmament,” he said, referring to the “Civil War” declared by the same government established in August and Myanmar. removes counselors.

The People’s Defense Forces (PDF) has pledged allegiance to the National Unity Government (NUG) and often allies with the armed forces that have been fighting for political independence for years. NUG and PDF have been identified as terrorist organizations and the military.

When BBC Media Action producer Htet Htet Khine was arrested in August, he was arrested case under the Unlawful Association Act for communication with NUG. He remains in prison.

The military was forced to release more journalists who had been detained after the coup. In October, when troops were withdrawn from a regional bloc meeting, the Association of Southeast Asia Nations. release about 5,000 people were arrested for protesting against the coup, including 13 journalists.

Maung is trying to keep hope that Hanthar Nyein could be among the next inmates to be pardoned but has no idea when.

“Maybe before Christmas?” he said, speaking on December 17. “Burma’s Independence Day? Maybe tomorrow or tomorrow. ”

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