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Myanmar Journalist Shot, Killed While in Military Custody

Journalist Myat Thu Tan was shot and killed on January 31 while in military custody in the town of Mrauk-U, according to reports.
Journalist Myat Thu Tan was shot and killed on January 31 while in military custody in the town of Mrauk-U, according to reports.

Media watchdogs are demanding an investigation into the death in military custody of a journalist in Myanmar.

Myat Thu Tan, a contributor to the local online outlet Western News, was shot and killed on January 31 while in military custody in the town of Mrauk-U in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, according to reports.

The journalist’s body was found, along with six other political prisoners, buried in a bomb shelter, after the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed organization, overran the military camp on February 5.

Local media said the bodies showed signs of torture.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, on Friday called for an independent investigation into the killing and for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

“We strongly condemn the murder of journalist Myat Thu Tan and call on Myanmar authorities to identify and prosecute those responsible,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement.

“A culture of impunity has taken deep root in Myanmar since the 2021 democracy-suspending coup. The junta must stop killing, and start protecting, journalists,” Crispin said.

Myanmar’s military stands accused by the United Nations and human rights groups of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity around the country since the February 2021 coup.

The country ranks ninth in the world in terms of impunity in journalist killings, according to the CPJ.

Myanmar’s military did not immediately reply to VOA’s request for comment.

Myat Thu Tan was arrested at his home in Mrauk-U in September 2022 and held in pretrial detention under a broad provision that criminalizes incitement and the spread of false news. The arrest was linked to his critical Facebook posts, according to reports.

The journalist, known also as Phoe Thiha, reported for several news outlets, including at one time, the Democratic Voice of Burma, or DVB.

Shortly after the February 2021 coup, the military revoked DVB’s license. Its team now works from exile.

The journalist’s arrest and killing highlight the grave security threats facing reporters in Myanmar, where the military has cracked down hard on the media in the past three years.

From Exile, Myanmar’s Media Navigate Risks to Get News
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DVB’s executive director Aye Chan Naing discussed those threats in an interview with VOA earlier this month.

“The most challenging situation that we are facing is security for our journalists,” Aye Chan Naing said.

Dozens of journalists have been detained since the coup, and others have gone into exile or work under the radar.

Myanmar currently is ranked second only to China for the number of journalists detained for their work. It had at least 43 in custody at the time of CPJ’s latest census of imprisoned journalists.

Myat Thu Tan is the fourth journalist to die while in military custody in Myanmar since 2021.

Stephen Boitano contributed to this report.