Two reporters detained as press crackdown intensifies in Myanmar

BBC says it is ‘extremely concerned’ after Aung Thura, a journalist from its Burmese-language service, was ‘taken away by unidentified men’.

Amid a crackdown on the press, no privately-owned newspapers were published this week for the first time in eight years, following bans and voluntary suspensions [AP Photo]

Two more journalists were detained in Myanmar on Friday, part of the military’s intensifying efforts to choke off information about resistance to last month’s coup.

Mizzima News reported that one of its former reporters, Than Htike Aung, and Aung Thura, a journalist from the BBC’s Burmese-language service, were detained by men who appeared to be plainclothes security agents outside a court in the capital of Naypyidaw.

The journalists were there to cover legal proceedings against Win Htein, a detained senior official from the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party that ran the country before the takeover.

The coup reversed years of slow progress towards democracy after 50 years of military rule.

In the face of persistent strikes and protests against the takeover, the military has responded with an increasingly violent crackdown and efforts to severely limit the information reaching the outside world.

Anti-coup protesters abandon their makeshift barricade and run as policemen charge in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, March 19, 2021 [AP Photo]

Security forces have fired on crowds, killing hundreds, internet access has been severely restricted, private newspapers have been barred from publishing, and protesters, journalists and politicians have been arrested in large numbers.

About 40 journalists have been arrested since the February 1 coup, with roughly half still in detention.

‘Extremely concerned’

On Friday, the BBC’s official press Twitter account released a statement regarding Aung Thura, asking authorities to “confirm he was safe”.

“We are extremely concerned about our BBC News Burmese Reporter, Aung Thura, who was taken away by unidentified men,” it said.

The British broadcaster said it was doing everything it could to locate him.

“We call on the authorities to help locate him and confirm that he is safe. Aung Thura is an accredited BBC journalist with many years of reporting experience covering events in Nay Pyi Taw [Naypyidaw],” the BBC said.

The reporters were taken into custody a day after Kyi Toe, a spokesman for the NLD, was arrested, according to a Facebook post by Phyo Zeya Thaw, a party official.

Kyi Toe had been a main source of information in the early days following the February 1 coup, after the removed civilian government’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior officials were detained.

The takeover came the same day that newly elected lawmakers were supposed to take their seats in Parliament.

Amid a crackdown on the press, no privately-owned newspapers were published this past week for the first time in eight years, following bans and voluntary suspensions.

Restrictions on the internet have also been in place since shortly after the coup, including a blockage of mobile internet access. Broadband WiFi service remains available, though spotty.

Source: News Agencies