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AJF demands immediate release of Myanmar journalist

| Updated: September 21, 2021 14:51

Asia Journalism Fellowship (AJF) demands the immediate release of their colleague Myo Thant–former editor-in-chief of Mizzima. He was arrested and charged by Myanmar’s junta regime on September 19, 2021. Myo was part of the Asia Journalism Fellowship in Singapore in 2015, and has been in intermittent contact with colleagues from the programme since the military took over.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), he was arrested in Kangye Htaung, a township in southwestern Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River delta region. The RSF said it learnt security forces threatened to take his aunt if he did not surrender. He was arrested at about 8pm.

He is now held incommunicado in a detention centre in Sint Tang, and has been charged under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code, under which dissemination of information deemed contrary to the interest of the armed forces is punishable for three years. Myanmar is currently ranked 140th in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.

In the last communication with AJF in May, he said he was hiding out and feared for his safety and his family’s future, as well as his colleagues who, like him, had to be on the run from persecution. Myo is part of a growing list of journalists arrested, charged and harassed in Myanmar for just doing their jobs. Freedom of press is an essential principle that all countries must respect, emphasised AJF. The AJF programme allows journalists to build friendships, network and opportunities to work together.

Arbitrary arrests, torture, surveillance, economic uncertainty, exile. This is the new normal for journalists in Myanmar since the February 1, 2021 military coup. To date, the junta has shown no signs of changing course from its crackdown on independent media, civil society, and democracy. Almost 950 people have been killed following the coup, and nearly 5,500 people are currently detained amid the junta’s violent suppression of mass protests. In total 93 journalists and media staff have been arrested with 40 of them still detained.

So far, 13 of his batchmates have signed the petition and demanded Myo’s immediate release. They include:

1. Aidila Razak (Special Reports Editor, Malaysiakini. AJF Fellow 2015) – Malaysia

2. Chairul Fahmy Hussaini (Assistant to Editor, Berita Harian. AJF Fellow 2015) – Singapore

3. Veengas (Editor, The Rise News, AJF Fellow, 2015) – Pakistan

4. Sudeep Shrestha (Editor, Setopati, AJF Fellow 2015) – Nepal

5. Eko Maryadi (CEO independen.id, AJF Fellow 2015) – Indonesia

6. Alka Dhupkar, journalist, Mumbai, India. AJF Fellow, 2015.- India

7. Lina Nursanty, AJF Fellow, 2015.- Indonesia

8. Deepu Sebastian Edmond (Independent Journalist & Researcher, AJF Fellow 2015) – India

9. Kamran Reza Chowdhury (General Secretary, Bangladesh Parliament Journalists’ Association, Freelance Journalist working for BenarNews and The Third Pole, AJF Fellow 2015) – Bangladesh

10. Camelia Nathaniel (Associate News Editor, The Daily News Sri Lanka, AJF Fellow 2015) – Sri Lanka

11. Jitinan Watnucha (Senior News Editor, Royal Thai Army Television Thailand, AJF Fellow 2015) – Thailand

12. Hoang Thuy Ha, Vietnam, AJF Fellow 2015 – Vietnam

13. Natashya Gutierrez (Editor in Chief, Asia-Pacific; Vice World News, AJF Fellow 2015)- Philippines

Vibes of India stands in solidarity with the cause and believes in the freedom of speech and the safety of journalists.

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