IPI demands accountability for the killing of Myanmar journalist Myat Thu Tan, who was shot and killed while in military custody in the town of Mrauk-U, in western Rakhine, on January 31.

Myat Thu Tan was a contributor for the local media outlet Western News as well as the Democratic Voice of Burma. He previously reported for other media outlets, such as 7Day New Journal, The Voice and Development Media Group, which were closed down and banned since the military coup in 2021.

Thu Tan was initially arrested on September 22, 2022, following his social media posts critical of the junta, and was charged with incitement to hatred and disseminating false information under Section 505a of Myanmar’s penal code, which prohibits reporting that will “cause fear,” spreads “false news, [or] agitates directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a Government employee”. According to the International Center for Non-Profit-Law, the junta has detained over 200 journalists and charged 160 of them with a crime since the beginning of the coup. The section 505a has been relentlessly used to silence reporters that have spoken out against the regime.

Thu Tan was reportedly shot along with six other political detainees, including rapper Kyaw Zan Wai, by two junta officers. Their corpses were discovered on February 5, buried in a bomb shelter near a military hospital. The bodies were found by soldiers of the armed ethnic group Arakan Army (AA), who have been fighting the junta as part of the alliance against military forces. AA seized the area early February.

“IPI strongly condemns the abhorrent killing of Myat Thu Tan, and we call for an immediate, independent investigation into the circumstances of his death”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “We also call on the junta to cease its relentless attack on press freedom and independent media in Myanmar, and immediately release all imprisoned journalists in the country.”

Myanmar has seen a total crackdown on freedom of the press since the military takeover of the government three years ago. Journalists are routinely arrested, imprisoned, or forced into exile, and independent journalists and media have been silenced with the use of draconian laws.