The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today vehemently condemned the brutal crackdown and ongoing repression of journalists in Myanmar and demanded the immediate release of all journalists arrested for carrying out their professional duties.
On Wednesday 21 April, political activists in Myanmar initiated the #BlueShirtDay2021 campaign, condemning the imprisonment of political prisoners and journalists and calling for their release. The blue shirts are in memory of journalist and activist Win Tin, who was himself imprisoned for around 19 years and died on the same day 7 years ago.
1/3 Myanmar’s campaign for #BlueShirtDay2021 launched on Wednesday, demanding the release of all political prisoners detained by the coup regime. The blue shirts are a tribute to veteran journalist and activist Win Tin, who spent 19 years in prison and died 7 years ago today. pic.twitter.com/jcjL27A7Rx
— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) April 21, 2021
In the months since the coup in early February, at least 70 journalists have been arrested, of whom at least 36 are still in detention, according to Reporting ASEAN. Several editorial offices have been searched and/or had their licences revoked by security forces.
The most recent arrest is that of the Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi, who was taken from his home by police forces on the night of April 17 and has been detained ever since. The Japanese government has called on the military junta to release the journalist immediately. A few weeks earlier, on February 26, Kitazumi was detained by security forces for several hours while covering a protest.
Since early April, the military junta has been publishing lists of celebrities and journalists who it claims affect the stability of the state under section 505-A of the country’s criminal code. These public lists contain the full names, pictures, addresses and Facebook accounts of the journalists who allegedly spread misinformation and support “unlawful” behaviour. Those charged under this provision face three years imprisonment.
Among those one the list are freelancers Lumin Thuang Tun, Htoo Kyaw Win and Mratt Kyaw Thu; Democratic Voice of Burma’s Nay Zaw Naing; Reuters reporter Soe Zaya Tun; Voice of America reporter Sithu Aung Myint; and DVB TV anchor Ye Wint Thu.
Meanwhile, the government has continued to shut down the internet, disabling mobile data for over five weeks and blocking content on online platforms, as reported by the internet monitoring group NetBlocks.
“Myanmar’s military junta is engaging in outrageous tactics of intimidation to silence the journalists reporting on the junta’s bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy movement”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “IPI adds it voice to those demanding the immediate release of all journalists in Myanmar and the return of democracy in the country. Democratic countries in the region, as well as the wider international community, must stand up for fundamental rights in Myanmar.”
Protests in Myanmar have been ongoing since the military coup in early February. To suppress the countermovement, the military junta has targeted journalists and activists.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 738 individuals have been killed by security forces and a total of 3300 people currently remain in detention, 76 of whom have been sentenced.