Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that Burmese reporter and political columnist Sithu Aung Myint has been given an additional seven-year jail term, bringing his combined sentence to 12 years in prison. RSF demands his release and sounds the alarm about the shocking recent increase in the severity of the sentences being passed on journalists in Myanmar.
There seems to be no limit to how far Myanmar’s military junta is ready to go in order to crush press freedom. After being sentenced to three years in prison on 7 October, and then another two years on 24 November, Sithu Aung Myint, was given a further seven years on 9 December on a charge of sedition under Section 124 (a) of the criminal code.
“The severity of the sentences imposed in a totally arbitrary manner on journalists such as Sithu Aung Myint is obscene,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The world cannot watch Myanmar sink deeper into terror in this way without doing anything. We call on Tom Andrews, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, to take action to toughen the international sanctions targeting Myanmar’s generals.”
Ever since his first conviction for “inciting crime” on 7 October, RSF has denounced the Kafkaesque nature of the charges being brought against Sithu Aung Myint, who was arrested on 15 August 2021.
His latest sentence came just nine days after freelance reporter Myo San Soe was sentenced to 15 years in prison on 30 November on charges of “terrorism” and “funding terrorism”. This is longest prison sentence that any journalist has received since the military retook power in Myanmar in a coup in February 2021.
Two weeks before that, two journalists working for reportedly pro-junta online media – Win Oo and Zaw Min Oo – were jailed for asking difficult questions during an information ministry press conference.
Since the military takeover, Myanmar has become the world’s biggest jailer of journalists relative to population size, according to RSF’s press freedom barometer. It is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, 36 places lower than in 2021.
176/180Score : 25.03