The three journalists and two activists are expected to appear in court on Tuesday on charges of ‘illegal entry’.
A Myanmar journalist who reported on anti-military government protests has been jailed for three years for incitement, his news organisation said, while authorities announced a twice-arrested Japanese reporter would be freed.
Min Nyo, who worked for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in Myanmar’s Bago region, was arrested on March 3 and found guilty by a military court in one of the first verdicts against media workers since the February 1 military coup.
“DVB demands the military authority release Min Nyo immediately, as well as other detained or convicted journalists around Myanmar,” it said on Thursday.
He had been beaten by police and denied visits by his family, it said.
Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, also denounced the sentence, saying: “The world cannot continue to sit quietly by while the junta’s repression machine imprisons the truth and those who are risking all to reveal it.”
In its nightly news bulletin, state-run MRTV said another journalist, Yuki Kitazumi, who was charged under the same law as Min Nyo, had broken the law but would be released as recognition of Myanmar’s close relationship with Japan.
Kitazumi, who runs a media company in Yangon, was arrested on April 19 for the second time since the coup and was the first foreign journalist charged.
Japan was a big investor and source of technical help and development aid for Myanmar’s semi-civilian governments in the 10 years of democracy and reform that followed the end of the last era of military rule in 2011.
Risk to life and liberty
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, with the military struggling to impose order amid a groundswell of public anger at its overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.
Many journalists are among the nearly 4,900 people who have been arrested, according to the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group.
DVB is among several news outlets that have had licences revoked by the military, which has restricted internet access and used lethal force to suppress countrywide strikes and protests against it. At least 785 people have been killed by security forces, according to AAPP figures.
Three of DVB’s journalists were detained in northern Thailand this week for illegal entry after fleeing Myanmar. Human rights groups have pleaded with Thailand not to deport them.
Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director said journalism had effectively been criminalised by Myanmar’s generals.
“They risk life and liberty to shed light on the military’s abuses. The military authorities are ruthless, determined to crush dissent by silencing those who seek to expose their crimes,” Gil said in a statement.
Resistance to the military has intensified in recent weeks, with hostilities reigniting between the military and several ethnic minority armies, fatal attacks on military-government-appointed administrators and ambushes of police and soldiers by militias calling themselves People’s Defence Forces.
MRTV announced on Thursday that martial law had been declared due to unrest in Mindut in northwestern Chin State. Resistance groups there say there has been heavy fighting between armed civilians and military government troops.
Meanwhile, protests continue across the country on Friday, with demonstrators on motorbikes taking to the streets in Mogaung in Kachin state and dozens of protesters marching in Mandalay despite threats of a violent military crackdown.
Candlelight strikes by students were also held on Thursday night in Mingaladon, north of Yangon, the country’s largest city and economic hub.