Geneva: Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), the global media safety and rights body, has expressed concern over the recent arrest of a Rakhine reporter in western Myanmar. They urged the military junta to release Ko Htet Aung along with nearly 30 media persons, who were detained, arrested, and imprisoned in the Southeast Asian country after the military rulers grabbed power by overthrowing a democratically elected government in NayPieTaw on 1 February 2021.
Media reports from Sittwe, the capital of the Rakhine (also known as Arakan) State under Myanmar (Burma/Brahmadesh), reveal that the military personnel raided the office of independent media outlet Development Media Group on 29 October 2023 and arrested a reporter (Htet Aung) and a night watchman (Ko Soe Win Aung). They also seized office computers, cameras, bank documents, etc, and finally sealed the building.
Narinjara News, a Rakhine news agency, reported that a group of military personnel also went to Htet Aung’s house in the afternoon (on Sunday) and asked a number of questions relating to him. The DMG management asserted that the arrest of a journalist and the raid of a media office is a clear violation of media freedom and expression that deprives the people’s right to information, stated the news agency, adding that both the detainees were taken to Sittwe police station.
“The notorious Burmese junta has not changed its policy to crack down on the opposition voices which can make them uncomfortable in front of the international community. So the journalists are also being targeted in Myanmar. But the journalists must be allowed to perform their duty on the ground,” said Blaime Lempen, president of PEC (www.pressemblem.ch), reminding the junta leader Min Aung Hlaing that journalism is not a crime.
PEC’s Southeast Asia representative Nava Thakuria informed that the DMG, which was established in 2012, usually covers the political turmoil and armed conflicts in the Rakhine localities. To date, five independent media outlets have been shut down and many are facing legal action from the military rulers. No less than 125 media persons (including women journalists) have been arrested since the military coup two years back and one-third of them are still behind bars, added Thakuria.