Accessibility links

Breaking News

VOA Contributor Sentenced to 3 Years' Prison in Myanmar

Sithu Aung Myint, a contributor or VOA's Burmese Service, was sentenced to three years' hard labor after being convicted of incitement. (VOA Burmese)
Sithu Aung Myint, a contributor or VOA's Burmese Service, was sentenced to three years' hard labor after being convicted of incitement. (VOA Burmese)

A Myanmar journalist who contributed to Voice of America's Burmese Service was sentenced Friday to three years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of incitement.

Sithu Aung Myint, who also reported for the media outlets SkyNet and Frontier Myanmar, was arrested Aug. 15, 2021.

The verdict on Friday was one of three cases filed against Sithu Aung Myint at three different townships in Yangon. He is accused of incitement and defaming the armed forces and state.

The journalist is next scheduled to appear in court on October 13.

A lawyer representing Sithu Aung Myint told VOA Burmese she will appeal Friday's verdict at a higher court.

Sithu Aung Myint's daughter, who asked not to be named, says that her father has not committed crimes, and that all he did was write articles professionally and based on fact.

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the country's military-run media said that Sithu Aung Myint was arrested over articles he posted to social media that were critical of the junta and that allegedly incited people to back the opposition and take part in unrest.

A spokesperson for the Myanmar military has previously told VOA that the junta does not arrest journalists for their work.

Sithu Aung Myint is well known in Myanmar for his reporting on politics, business and social issues.

He has been a contributor to VOA since 2014, providing a weekly news analysis. The journalist also worked for local media and posted news content to his blog and to Facebook.

His last article for VOA, focused on the coronavirus vaccine, was published Aug. 9, 2021, just a few days before his arrest.

VOA on Friday condemned the detention in Myanmar of Sithu Aung Myint and other journalists.

"The government of Myanmar must stop the indiscriminate arrest and detention of journalists and the hopeless legal proceedings that follow," acting VOA Director Yolanda Lopez said in a statement. "The people of Myanmar deserve to live in a society that embraces accurate and objective news."

Myanmar's military government charged Sithu Aung Myint under Section 505 of the country's penal code, which relates to defamation of the armed forces and state.

From the time the military seized power in February 2021, journalists have commonly faced incitement charges and charges under Section 505. Since the coup, more than 120 journalists have been detained, according to Reporting ASEAN, which tracks arrests in Myanmar. Of those, nearly 50 are still in custody.

Most were arrested covering protests against the military rulers.

On Wednesday, a Myanmar court convicted Japanese journalist Toru Kubota of incitement and violating the electronic transactions law and sentenced him to three and seven years in prison, respectively. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

Kubota was arrested in July while filming an anti-government protest, The Associated Press reported.

European Union lawmakers on Thursday cited the case of Sithu Aung Myint and two other journalists, BBC contributor Htet Htet Khine and freelancer Nyein Nyein Aye, in a resolution condemning the media crackdown.

Sithu Aung Myint and Htet Htet Khine were arrested together. A court last month sentenced Htet Htet Khine to three years' hard labor.

The European Parliament resolution condemned "the military junta's violent and illegitimate rule in Myanmar" and urged the junta "to drop all politically motivated charges against the members of the press and media workers, and unconditionally release every unfairly detained journalist."

The military takeover had a drastic effect on Myanmar's emerging independent media scene, with media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) saying the coup "obliterated the fragile progress toward greater press freedom."

Since the coup, several news outlets have had licenses revoked or have been forced to shut down or move their teams into exile.

The country ranks 176 out of 180 countries, where 1 has the best conditions for media, on RSF's Press Freedom Index.

This article originated in VOA's Burmese Service.