U.S. journalist Nathan Maung, the editor-in-chief of Kamayut Media, was released from Insein Prison in Yangon, Myanmar, on Monday after spending more than three months in detention. The International Press Institute (IPI) welcomes Maung’s release, but calls on the Myanmar junta to release all other journalists in detention, including American Danny Fenster and Hanthar Nyein, Maung’s colleague and cofounder of Kamayut Media.
Maung and Nyein were charged with violating Section 505a of Myanmar’s penal code, which penalizes the spreading of “false news” and has been commonly applied by the junta against journalists. They were detained March 9 by the junta’s armed forces after the Kamayut Media office in Yangon was raided.
Sources told CNN that Maung and Nyein were held and tortured in an interrogation centre for two weeks after their arrest. The journalists were beaten, denied food and water for days at a time, and forced to kneel on ice.
The charges against Maung were withdrawn and he was scheduled to be deported back to the U.S. on Tuesday, his lawyer told Myanmar Now. Nyein remains in prison.
“The release of Nathan Maung is a small bit of good news amid the horrors of Myanmar’s crackdown on journalists”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen. “While we welcome Nathan’s release, it’s clear that dozens of other journalists remain behind bars and subject to abuse and torture by the military junta. We continue to demand the release of all detained reporters in Myanmar, and we repeat our call on the international community to defend fundamental rights in the country.”
Kamayut Media has been described as Myanmar’s first private online broadcast news organization and has reported on the junta’s violence against protestors. In the wake of the Myanmar military’s February coup, there has been a brutal crackdown on journalists and members of the press throughout the country. The junta has suspended licenses of independent news organizations, raided media offices, and arrested over 80 journalists. As of May 25, there were still around 50 journalists behind bars.
American journalist Danny Fenster has been in detention since May 24, when he was prevented from boarding a flight out of Myanmar. Fenster, who was working as the managing editor of local news organization Frontier Myanmar, has not been charged with a crime.
IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi has called for Fenster’s release.
“The international community must respond forcefully to the increase in detentions, violence and intimidation of journalists in Myanmar in recent weeks, which represents an unacceptable attack on press freedom”, Trionfi said in May.