Media watchdogs condemn attack on Arakanese journalist

Media watchdogs condemn attack on Arakanese journalist

Media advocacy groups have condemned a bombing attack on the home of an Arakanese journalist, calling on authorities to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have condemned the attack on Min Min’s home in the country’s westernmost state. Min Min is the chief editor of Root Investigative Agency (RIA), which he founded in 2015.

On the evening of 10 March, an explosion was reported at the residence, where Min Min lives with his wife and infant child. The home, which also acts as the media agency’s office, was undamaged in the attack.

Speaking to DVB, Min Min said military investigators and Special Branch police were among the first on the scene, but that the military is withholding evidence from police.

“After the explosion, authorities thoroughly searched our house using bomb sniffing dogs and mine detectors. The Tatmadaw [military] investigators took pieces of shrapnel found stuck in the wall, but they wouldn’t allow it to be photographed … they also didn’t share it with the police. So the police are now empty-handed without the evidence, and the Tatmadaw now denies finding it at the scene,” he said.

Video footage circulated after the attack showed significant damage to the wall surrounding the area.  No family members or any of the 18 staff were injured in the blast.

Min Min told CPJ he had no option but to flee to Rangoon, while his family and employees remain in hiding throughout parts of Arakan State. He refuses to return until authorities apprehend the perpetrators.

“The attack on journalist Min Min’s home underscores the vulnerability of all journalists who report on sensitive issues in Burma, particularly in the country’s volatile Arakan State,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.

“We call on national authorities to identify, apprehend, and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime and to ensure the safety of all journalists.”

Min Min believes the attack was in response to their reporting on domestically sensitive matters, including criticism of Buddhist nationalism and corruption in Burma’s lucrative drug trade.

“Before the attack we were the target of strong criticism on social media, especially from Arakanese groups for our reports on the Arakan Army (AA) chief’s alleged involvement in the state’s drug trade,” said Min Min.

“We also reported on the allegations of both the AA and the Burmese military using local villagers as forced porters. We published news about cracks appearing in the Arakan National Party about a month before the split. They accused us of turning a blind eye to Arakanese interests.

“They spew a lot of hatred, and alleged that Islamic groups are behind us. They put a 3 million kyat bounty on our heads – then the explosion happened,” he said.

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According to RSF, last week’s  attack against a media worker is the first of its kind in Burma.

“We are very concerned so see media freedom’s enemies crossing this threshold,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific office.

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