A special court at Yangon’s Insein Prison has sentenced journalist Sithu Aung Myint to seven years in prison. He had already received two prison sentences for a total of five years for alleged hate speech in the army, which means he has to spend 12 years in prison.
The junta court on Friday convicted him of attempting to incite hatred or contempt against military personnel or officials, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
“The most recent Section 124(a) conviction is seven years in prison with a fine of ten thousand kyat (US$4.70). He is in good health but said he had a 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.
A family member of the journalist told RFA that it was completely unfair to issue ongoing sentences against a veteran journalist who wrote the truth after the February 1, 2021 military coup.
Sithu Aung Myint was arrested at an apartment in Yangon’s Bahan Ward in August last year. He was in hiding with former BBC TV presenter and freelance journalist Htet Htet Khine, who is serving a six-year prison sentence.
The veteran journalist has written articles critical of the junta since the 1988 Uprising of People’s Power (or 8888), a series of nationwide protests against General Ne Win’s regime.
He wrote and presented reports for the Democratic Voice of Burma in the late 2000s and later served as the editor-in-chief of Skynet Up to Date News.
Until his arrest, he wrote and presented reviews as a columnist for Voice of America’s Burmese Service.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has repeatedly called for Sithu Aung Myint’s release. The New York-based watchdog said in July that since the 2021 coup, “Myanmar has rapidly gone from jailing a lone reporter to one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists.” On Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index Myanmar ranks 176th out of 180 countries.
According to research compiled by RFA, based on testimonies from journalists’ family members, 143 journalists have been arrested in Myanmar in the first 21 months since the coup. By November 17, 2022, when the junta granted amnesty to some jailed journalists, a total of 95 had been released. Photojournalist Soe Naing died days after being tortured during interrogation, and 47 journalists remain in prisons across the country.