EU lawmakers condemn Myanmar’s crackdown on media freedom

BRUSSELS (AP) – EU lawmakers on Thursday condemned the crackdown on media freedom in military-ruled Myanmar and called for the release of “any journalist unjustly detained”.

Since the military took power in February last year, it has forced at least 12 media outlets to shut down and arrested about 142 journalists, 57 of whom are still in prison. Most of those still in detention are being held on charges of sedition for allegedly causing fear, spreading false news, or sedition against a government employee.

In its resolution passed by show of hands, the EU parliament cited the cases of BBC freelance producer Htet Htet Khine; Sithu Aung Myint, Frontier Myanmar columnist and Voice of America contributor; and freelancer Nyein Nyein Aye.

“Members of the European Parliament strongly condemn the violent and illegal rule of the military junta in Myanmar and urge it to drop all politically motivated charges against members of the press and media and unconditionally release any unjustly detained journalist released,” said the EU Parliament.

“They also call on the junta to immediately end its abuses, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual assault and other ill-treatment, as well as unfair trials against people working in the media.”

According to Reporters Without Borders, Nyein Nyein Aye was sentenced in July to three years in prison with hard labor on charges of “causing fear, spreading false news and inciting crimes against a government employee”.

Htet Htet Khine was sentenced to three years of hard labor on September 15. On September 27, a court sentenced her to another three years, with a reduction in time served. She has been incarcerated since August 2021.

“We remain concerned for her safety and well-being in detention and call for the release of Htet Htet Khine and other media workers wrongfully detained in Myanmar,” said Caroline Nursey, BBC Media Action’s Chief Executive Officer.

Sithu Aung Myint was arrested along with Htet Htet Khine in August 2021.

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Some of the closed media have continued to operate without a license and publish online while their associates evade arrest. Others operate from exile.

The military takeover sparked massive public protests to which the military and police responded with deadly force, sparking armed resistance and escalating violence that sparked what some UN experts describe as civil war.

According to detailed lists from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group in Thailand, 2,336 civilians have been killed in the military government’s crackdown on opponents and at least 15,757 have been arrested.

EU lawmakers also called for the restoration of civilian rule and the “unconditional release” of former Myanmar president Win Myint and former leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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