A special court in Yangon’s Insein Prison has sentenced journalist Sithu Aung Myint to seven years in prison. He had already received two sentences totaling five years for allegedly inciting sedition in the army, meaning he will have to spend 12 years in prison.
The junta court sentenced him on Friday for attempting to incite hatred or contempt against military personnel or civil servants, a crime which carries a maximum 20-year term.
“The recent sentence under Section 124 (a) is seven years in prison with a fine of ten thousand Kyats (U.S.$4.70). He is in good health but said he had backache that day,” said a source close to the court, who declined to be named for safety reasons. He added that Sithu Aung Myint did not respond to the special court’s verdict.
One of the journalist’s family members told RFA it was completely unjust to impose continuous sentences against a veteran journalist who wrote the truth after the Feb. 1, 2021, military coup.
Sithu Aung Myint was arrested in August last year at an apartment in Yangon’s Bahan township. He was in hiding along with former BBC television presenter and freelance journalist Htet Htet Khine who is serving a six-year prison term.
The veteran journalist has written articles critical of the junta since the 1988 People Power (or 8888) Uprising, a series of nationwide protests against the regime of Gen. Ne Win.
He wrote and presented reports for the Democratic Voice of Burma in the late 2000s and later worked as editor-in-chief of Skynet Up to Date news.
He was writing and presenting reviews as a columnist for Voice of America’s Burmese Service up to the time of his arrest.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued repeated calls for Sithu Aung Myint’s release. The New York-based watchdog said in July that, since the 2021 coup: “Myanmar has quickly gone from imprisoning a single reporter to ranking as one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists.” Myanmar ranks 176 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders 2022 World Press Freedom Index.
According to research compiled by RFA, based on statements from family members of journalists, 143 journalists were arrested in Myanmar in the first 21 months since the coup. A total of 95 had been released as of Nov. 17, 2022, when the junta granted amnesty to some imprisoned journalists. Photojournalist Soe Naing died days after being tortured during interrogation and 47 journalists remain in prisons across the country.
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