Associated Press Journalist Detained in Myanmar

Associated Press Journalist Detained in Myanmar

By Eunice Chi, Staff Writer

The pre-trial detention of Thein Zaw, an Associated Press journalist, has been extended by Myanmar courts. Zaw is one of the nine media reporters arrested on February 27th, in the city of Yangon, while covering protests against the Myanmar military’s seizure of power.

He was arrested while photographing police charging towards protestors and if found guilty of violating a public order law, he could face three years in prison. Videos show that police rushed to Zaw and surrounded him, despite him stepping out of their way. Zaw is being held without bail, and his next hearing is scheduled to take place March 24, in Kamayut Township court.

Ian Philips, AP vice president for international news, stated that “The Associated Press calls for the immediate release of AP journalist Thein Zaw, who has been charged with a crime in Myanmar for simply doing his job,” adding that “independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution. AP condemns the charge against Thein Zaw and his arbitrary detention.”

“I believe that this case highlights the importance of the press and the bravery that these individuals have to inform the public about current events in the world,” said sophomore Kalyani Karmaker. “The way that this case is handled by both the officials of Myanmar and the United States will show how the freedom of the press is supported by the U.S. government. I think there will always be risks and dangers for members of the press in dangerous areas, but keeping the public well informed is a necessity.”

Tin Zar Oo, Zaw’s lawyer, was present at his initial hearing, along with Zaw’s brother and a U.S. Embassy representative. Tin Zar Oo noted that Zaw looked to be in good health at the hearing, although he suffers from asthma and appeared to have lost weight, as observed by his brother.

Since a coup on February 1st brought back full military rule in Myanmar, the country has been in turmoil. The overthrowing of the weak democratic government led to the military declaring a state of national emergency, in place for 1 year. Peaceful protests against the military turned deadly when two unarmed protestors were killed by forces on February 20th.

In the weeks after the coup, the overthrown democratic leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, faced charges in a secret court. At least 80 people have been killed and hundreds injured, and more than 2,000 protestors detained, with allegations of torture and enforced disappearances.

“We are deeply concerned about the increasing attacks on the freedom of expression, including for members of the press. We call for the release of journalists and for all others who have been unjustly detained,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday.

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