Journalist is given a 3-year prison sentence by the Myanmar Junta

For her reportage after the military coup in February 2021, a special court in the military-run nation of Myanmar yesterday sentenced a BBC-affiliated journalist to three years in jail with hard labour. According to Radio Free Asia, who cited the journalist’s family and legal counsel, Htet Htet Khine was found guilty of “incitement” and “illegal association” for her journalistic work.

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For BBC Media Action, the British broadcaster’s division for foreign development, Htet Htet Khine hosted the Burmese-language show “Khan Sar Kyi” (literally, “Feel It”) from 2016 until 2020. With an emphasis on the effects of Myanmar’s protracted civil conflicts, the show was primarily concerned with conveying the tales of individuals living on the political and geographical periphery of the country. (For example, refer to this report from 2020 on refugees in Mae Hong Son, Thailand.)

In August 2021, six months after the coup, Htet Khine was detained alongside writer and journalist Sithu Aung Myint in a Yangon apartment. She still faces a further allegation of unlawful association, for which she risks an extra three years in jail. Sithu Aung Myint, a writer for Frontier Myanmar and a commentator for the Voice of America, which is supported by the United States, is still being held in pre-trial custody on suspicion of disseminating false information and sedition.

The predicament of the nation’s press might easily be overlooked in the sea of issues that have rocked Myanmar since the coup d’état last February. The liberalisation of the media environment that had followed the modest political changes of the 2010s was almost immediately overturned by the military coup. Since being driven back into exile or the shadows, the nation’s independent journalists have revived the clandestine reporting methods used under decades of military dictatorship before 2011.

BBC Media Action’s Director of Programmes, Richard Lace, stated in a statement yesterday that the group was “alarmed” to learn of Htet Htet Khine’s punishment and that it was still “concerned for her safety and well-being.”

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According to Lace, “these and previous detentions of media professionals in the nation go against fundamental principles of human rights and freedom of expression.”

The State Administration Council, which is supported by the military, is said to have so far shut down at least 11 media sites and detained roughly 142 journalists, 57 of whom are still being held without accusation or trial.

Ye Mon, a journalist for Frontier Myanmar, describes the trauma he went through after being held by troops at Yangon International Airport last December when he returned to the nation to take care of a sick relative in a brave first-person story released this week. In the piece, he recounts how he was brought to a black site interrogation facility in the city and repeatedly abused physically and sexually, including being raped.

Despite having to again relive his trauma, he stated, “I chose to write this because I wanted the world to know that the use of sexual violence is actually commonplace.”

Ye Mon said, “I think that using rape and other types of sexual assault is not merely a torture tactic used to get information from captives. The troops use sexual assault against civilians as a form of punishment and as a demonstration of their authority since they view civilians as their enemy.

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