Two freelance reporters covering the ongoing violence in Shan state’s Lashio for DVB were injured and had their SIM cards stolen after being assaulted by rioters on Wednesday.
While watching a mob loot a restaurant in the Lashio’s ward-7 on Wednesday afternoon, the two reporters were attacked by unidentified assailants who arrived at the scene on motorbikes.
“I got beat up and left with a bleeding head and my colleague also took a hit on the back – we were just watching the situation with cameras around our shoulders when a large group of people arrived on motorbikes and started attacking us,” said one of the reporters, who is not being named for security purposes.
According to the reporter, the rioters, who asked if they had been documenting the incident, then snatched their cameras.
“We answered no, but they were going to take the cameras – in the end we convinced them to only take the memory cards,” said the reporter, adding that the situation in Lashio was still chaotic even after authorities issued a curfew order last night.
“The mobs are roaming around the town on motorbikes, cars and Tuk-Tuks – they are playing cat and mouse with security forces, popping up here and there.”
As of today, the mobs were continuing to burn down buildings – including a cinema and several restaurants.
Rights groups condemned the attacks on Wednesday and said authorities were responsible for prosecuting the individuals behind the assault on the journalists.
“Too often forgotten in all the discussions about liberalising media laws and ending censorship is the ground reality that reporters must be protected to report what they see, without fear of violence or retaliation,” said Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch.
“The fact that these reporters were targeted by the mob fearing independent documentation of their crimes is profoundly disturbing. The police need to urgently investigate and get to the bottom of this incident, and arrest and prosecute those responsible for this attack.”