A total of 53 reporters have been detained or prosecuted since the military coup on February 1, said journalist U Myint Kyaw, citing data from fellow members of the media.
Twenty-six of them are under detention, 15 of them have been charged under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code, and the rest have been released, said U Myint Kyaw.
“Prosecution is not a good sign for all the journalists. It is no longer safe for them to do reporting. In some cases, family members are urging journalists to quit. In some cases, journalists themselves have concerns for their safety. All these factors contribute to a decline in press freedom,” he said.
Most of the journalists were detained by the security forces while covering anti-regime protests, while others were detained at their homes.
The Penal Code’s Section 505(a) assigns criminal liability to “whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such.”
Arrests and prosecution of journalists will severely harm Myanmar’s media industry, along with press freedom in the country, said one journalist who has been forced into hiding, speaking to DMG on condition of anonymity.
“Journalists are supposed to inform the people about the truth, covering both sides of the stories. We have been targeted. As journalists have been forced into hiding, press freedom has fallen into darkness. How can we continue to work in the media industry if this situation continues?” she asked. “We have to worry not only for ourselves but also for the safety of family members.”
Some journalists have reportedly left the profession following the detention and prosecution of their colleagues.
Last month, Myanmar’s military revoked the licenses of five independent media outlets: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Mizzima, and 7 Day News.