Junta courts in Myanmar have sentenced three journalists, Hanthar Nyein, Than Htike Aung and Ye Yint Tun, to two years in prison each for allegedly “spreading false news”. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the ongoing attacks to journalists in Myanmar and calls on the Myanmar officials to immediately drop all the charges against Hanthar Nyein, Than Htike Aung, and Ye Yint Tun.
According to the International Press Institute, Hanthar Nyein was sentenced on March 21 in a military-run court inside Yangon’s Insein Prison. The court charged the journalist for incitement under Section 505(A) of the Myanmar Penal Code.
On March 22, Than Htike Aung was handed the same charge, but was sentenced in Dekkhina District Court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s capital. Section 505(A) of Myanmar’s Penal Code criminalises the circulation of any information that is deemed “false news” against the military regime. Both journalists pleaded not guilty.
Radio Free Asia reported that Ye Yint Tun, a reporter for the Myanmar Herald, was also sentenced for two years on March 23 under Sections 505(A) and 505(B) of the Penal Code.
The sentencing of the three journalists comes one year after their original arrests. Hanthar Nyein, co-founder of Kamayut Media, was arrested on March 9, 2021, during a military raid of the news outlet’s office in Yangon.
“They said Kamayut Media had incited riots and rallied people to protest. However, Hanthar Nyein appealed to them that he had just reported the news in accordance with journalistic ethics,” Hanthar Nyein’s lawyer said.
Than Htike Aung, a news editor affiliated with independent media outlet Mizzima, was arrested on March 19, 2021, in Naypyitaw whilst reporting on a court hearing. Authorities arrested Ye Yint Tun on February 28, 2021, whilst he was covering a protest in Pathein.
Section 505(A) of the Penal Code has been heavily criticised in Myanmar, with activists arguing that it is a “legal catch-all for bringing criminal charges against a broad range of individuals deemed to pose a challenge to the military regime”, and thus justifies the arbitrary arrest of journalists.
The IFJ said: “The ongoing detainment and harassment of journalists by the military junta continues to curb press freedom in Myanmar and contravene international human rights standards. The IFJ calls for the immediate release of Hanthar Nyein, Than Htike Aung and Ye Yint Tun, and urges the military to immediately cease its intimidation of Myanmar’s media.”