Myanmar journalist Sithu Aung Myint sentenced to 3 years by junta

He was jailed on charges of "inciting government employees to commit crimes" by a secret court in Yangon.

Prominent Myanmar journalist Sithu Aung Myint, known for his reporting for both local and international media outlets, was sentenced to three years in prison Friday by a junta court on alleged charges of ‘inciting government employees to commit crimes,’ family members and sources close to the court told RFA.

A special court in Myanmar’s notorious Insein Prison located in the largest city of Yangon handed down the sentence under Section 505 (a) of the Penal Code, which has been used by the junta to target opponents since it seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021 military coup.

“This prison sentence is arbitrary,” a person close to the family told RFA.

“He didn’t do anything but write articles,” added the source.

Sithu Aung Myint, who had worked for Voice of America among other outlets, was arrested Aug. 15 last year at an apartment in Bahan Township in Yangon,

“I heard he is in good health in prison although he lost weight,” the family friend said.

Sithu Aung Myint was detained along with Htet Htet Khine, a freelance producer for BBC’s Media Action and the presenter and anchorwoman for the Khansarkyi program, funded by the British broadcaster.

On Sept. 15, a Bahan Township court sentenced Htet Htet Khine to three years, and on Sept. 27, the a secret court in Insein Prison.gave her an additional three years prison under the Illegal Association Act by

Since the coup, the military junta has led a wide-ranging crackdown on journalists and opponents of its rule, leading to condemnation by civil society and international human rights groups.

Myanmar journalist Myint Kyaw told RFA that the harsh sentences imposed on reporters this year show the junta’s tough policy targeting news outlets to silence its critics.

“Just the other day, we saw them giving the maximum sentence to a Japanese documentary filmmaker. This is a clear sign that the military council has a very hostile policy toward the news media. We have seen this trend since the middle of 2022.”

He said outlets have already shown increased restraint in reporting on anything that could go against the junta’s line, knowing they could receive the maximum penalties if prosecuted.

Sithu Aung Myint's lawyer told RFA that he is planning to appeal the decision.

Sithu Aung Myint will face two additional cases for “defamation of the state” under Section 124 (a) of the Penal Code, which can carry a sentence of life in prison, according to family members and close friends.

According to research compiled by RFA that is based on statements from the family members of arrested journalists, 135 journalists have been arrested in Myanmar during the 19 months since the military coup. Seventy have been released so far, while 65 are still detained in various prisons. Among them, 29 journalists have been sentenced to a minimum of one and a half years in prison and a maximum of 11 years in prison.

Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung for RFA Burmese. Written in English by Nawar Nemeh.