The former publisher of independent news outlet The Irrawaddy has been sentenced to five years in prison for sedition, marking the latest in a barrage of attacks on the press in Myanmar following the 2021 military coup.
Thaung Win was sentenced by the military-controlled Western Yangon District Court on June 28 under Article 124-A of the penal code, which covers sedition, and fined him 100,000 kyats, or about $47, according to The Irrawaddy. He was arrested nine months earlier at his home in the city of Yangon in late September.
Win was initially charged with violating the Publishing and Distribution Act by reporting news that “negatively affected national security, rule of law and public peace,” according to The Irrawaddy.
The ex-publisher has been held in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison. It is unclear whether he will appeal the conviction.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, has called on Myanmar’s military to immediately release Win.
“The punitive and unjust sentencing of The Irrawaddy publisher Thaung Win is repugnant and should be immediately reversed,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement on Monday. “The military regime must release him and stop harassing The Irrawaddy for its fearless and uncompromising news reporting.”
Ye Ni, editor of The Irrawaddy’s Burmese Edition, denounced the junta’s sentencing of Win and said the former publisher had nothing to do with the news outlet’s coverage.
War on independent media
Win’s sentencing is the latest development in the war that Myanmar’s military has waged on the country’s independent media since it launched a coup in February 2021.
In the more than two years since the military overthrew Myanmar’s nascent civilian-led government, the junta, also known as the Tatmadaw, has banned The Irrawaddy and at least 13 other independent news outlets.
Despite the ban, The Irrawaddy — like many other independent Myanmar outlets — continues to cover the ongoing post-coup crisis in the country. The outlet, like many of its peers, primarily operates in exile.
Accusations of abuses
The United Nations has accused the Tatmadaw of committing widespread human rights abuses, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, around the country since the coup. The military has cracked down hard on independent journalists to shield itself from scrutiny.
At the time of CPJ’s December 2022 prison census, Myanmar was the world’s third-worst jailer of journalists, with at least 42 members of the press behind bars. Few reporters continue to work on the ground in Myanmar due to safety risks.
Source : VOA