Three journalists sentenced, another arrested in Myanmar’s endless terror


In the space of a week, Myanmar’s military have arrested a banned news agency’s editor and passed prison sentences on three other journalists, including Han Thar Nyein, a nominee for this year’s Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press freedom Prize. RSF calls on the UN to toughen international sanctions on Myanmar’s generals to deter them from resorting to ever more terror.

“The endless arrests and continued detention of journalists by Myanmar’s military authorities is sickening,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The world cannot watch the country succumb to the terror being used by the junta to control the news media. We call on Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, to take action to toughen the international sanctions targeting its generals.”

Nominated in November for RSF’s Prize for Courage, Han Thar Nyein was tried in the utmost secrecy yesterday, 26 December, by a court inside Insein prison in the Yangon suburbs and was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly violating Section 33 (A) of Myanmar’s Electronic Transactions Law, which penalises acts detrimental to the security of the state. The details of his trial were leaked to social media the same day and were verified by RSF.

Manipulated legislation

Han Thar Nyein was already sentenced in March to two years in prison with hard labour under Section 505 (a) of Myanmar’s penal code, which penalises spreading “false news” and is widely used to persecute journalists. He will have to serve the two sentences consecutively, meaning he will have to spend a total of seven years in prison.

Democratic Voice of Burma meanwhile reported that Kyaw Zeya, the editor of the Kanbawza Tai News (KTZ News) agency, was arrested when soldiers raided his parents’ home in Gyobingauk, a small town in the central Bago region, on the morning of 25 December.

Originally based in Taunggyi, the capital of northeastern Shan State, Kyaw Zeya had been in hiding ever since his news agency was banned immediately after the February 2021 coup that restored military rule, when five of his KTZ News colleagues were arrested and then sentenced to five years in prison under Section 505 (a) of the penal code

World record

RSF has learned that the same law was used last week to impose sentences of three years in prison with hard labour on two journalists with the Myanmar Pressphoto Agency (MPA) – video reporter Hmu Yadanar Khet Moh Moh Tun and photographer Kaung Sett Lin – who are being held in Insein prison and who were notified of their sentences on 21 December. Both were badly injured when arrested just over a year ago while trying to cover a flash mob in Yangon’s Kyimyindaing district.

With 63 media personnel currently held, according to RSF’s Press Freedom Barometer, Myanmar is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists relative to his population, and it is ranked near the bottom of in RSF's World Press Freedom Index – 176th out of 180 countries.