Journalists from Kamayut Media and Mizzima are convicted of incitement one year after their arrests in a continued nationwide crackdown on news organisations
Junta courts in Naypyitaw and inside Yangon’s Insein Prison sentenced two journalists to two years in prison this week, one year after their arrests and charges of violating Section 505a of the Penal Code for incitement.
Kamayut Media co-founder Hanthar Nyein was convicted on Monday in a military-run “special court” in Insein, and former Mizzima correspondent Than Htike Aung was handed the same verdict by the Dekkhina District Court in Naypyitaw on Tuesday.
Both men pleaded not guilty, and were told that their time already served in prison would be deducted from their sentences.
“They said Kamayut Media had incited riots and rallied people to protest,” Hanthar Nyein’s lawyer said. “However, Hanthar Nyein appealed to them that he had just reported the news in accordance with journalistic ethics.”
He added that his client did not offer comment on the verdict as he had anticipated that he would be sentenced to prison time, but noted that he was in good health.
Hanthar Nyein was arrested along with Kamayut’s other co-founder and editor-in-chief Nathan Maung during a military raid on their office in Yangon on March 9, 2021.
After being detained in Insein for more than three months, Nathan Maung, an American citizen, was released and deported in June. He told several news outlets that both he and Hanthar Nyein were brutally tortured by the junta’s forces during prison interrogations.
Than Htike Aung was arrested outside the Dekkhina court on March 19, 2021 by plainclothes officers while reporting on a hearing for National League for Democracy party patron Win Htein. BBC correspondent Aung Thura was also arrested, but was released days later.
The military council has been threatening media organisations and raiding their offices since staging a coup in February last year. In addition to Kamayut, those targeted in Yangon were Mizzima, Myanmar Now and DVB, as well as the Hakha Post in Chin State, the Monywa Gazette in Sagaing, and the Shwe Phee Myay news agency in Lashio, Shan State.
Although staff members largely managed to evade capture during these raids, the military confiscated office property and frequently destroyed or damaged the premises.
More than 130 journalists have been arrested since the coup and more than 50 were still imprisoned at the time of reporting, according to figures compiled by the Detained Journalists Group, which has been monitoring and collecting data on the issue.
Nway Nway Eain contributed to this report.