Three years after its coup, the Myanmar junta is stepping up its ruthless crackdown on journalists. The army has summarily killed four journalists, and more than 150 media professionals have been locked up. Reporters are facing increasingly harsh prison sentences. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the international community to step up the pressure on the military regime to secure their release.
1 February 2024 marks exactly three years since the military junta seized power in Myanmar in a ferocious military coup. Journalists and press freedom defenders were among the first targets of the regime's unprecedented crackdown, with four executed in cold blood and at least 150 arrested and imprisoned. To date, 61 journalists are still being held.
"For the past three years, the Myanmar generals have been crushing the people under their boots and attacking witnesses to their crimes, particularly the journalists, who make it possible for the rest of the world to be aware of them. We call on the international community to step up its pressure on the junta to release all detained journalists and put an end to its policy of information blackout," said Cédric Alviani, RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director
Since the putsch, four journalists have been killed by the junta: the founder of the Khonumthung news agency Pu Tuidim; the editor of the Federal News Journal Sai Win Aung; and the two freelance photojournalists Soe Naing and Aye Kaw.
Under its policy of terror, the junta has also set up courts within the prisons, which sentence journalists to heavy penalties on the mere suspicion of "terrorism", "espionage", or even simply "acts prejudicial to state security".
As a result, the sentences handed down by the military courts have continued to lengthen, culminating in the grotesque life sentence imposed in January 2024 on documentary filmmaker Shin Daewe, on charges of “abetting” terrorism. A few months earlier, in September 2023, photojournalist Sai Zaw Thaike had already been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment with hard labour for alleged charges of "disinformation" and "sedition", which are regularly used to persecute journalists in Myanmar.
Myanmar, ranked 173th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists with 61 detained, second only to China.