Yangon court sentences freelance journalist to two years in prison — H Talk Asia

Burmese journalist Thuzar, known by a single name, was sentenced to two years in prison by the Insein Prison Court in Yangon on Tuesday, according to a lawyer close to the case who declined to be named for security reasons.

She was charged with “inciting riots” under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code, which targets those who question the legitimacy of the coup or criticize the junta.

“She will be released soon because she has the right to take away the days she was detained,” the lawyer told RFA Burmese.

Thuzar was arrested near East Dagon Township on September 29, 2021 and has been held in Insein Prison ever since.

It was reported that she would be released last Thursday as part of the junta’s National Day amnesty of 5,774 prisoners, prompting Thuzar’s husband, retired journalist Ye Ko, to wait outside the jail all day.

Her mother, who was not allowed to appear in court on Tuesday, told RFA she had been told Thuzar was unbroken by the verdict.

“I was sad, but what can I do? I awaited her release with the amnesty, but she didn’t come out. She is well and in good health. She wasn’t shocked by the court ruling as she is mentally strong.”

Thuzar is a veteran journalist who has worked for local and foreign news agencies including RFA Burmese for almost 14 years. She was working as a freelance journalist when she was arrested last year. She also helped run the Myanmar Woman’s Journalist Society.

According to RFA, 143 journalists were arrested across the country between the February 1, 2021, and November 17, 2021 coup. Of these, 95 journalists were released, including Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota, who was freed from a 10-year prison sentence as part of last week’s amnesty. Photojournalist Soe Naing died days after being tortured during interrogation and 47 journalists remain in prison.

In addition to arresting journalists, the junta has silenced media organizations and banned 14 news agencies, four publishers and two printers since the coup.

Last month, local reporters from BBC Burmese and online news site The Irrawaddy went into hiding after the junta threatened to sue their organizations over claims that troops killed at least three civilians near a Buddhist pagoda in Mon state on October 12 killed. The Irrawaddy was arrested by the junta later in the month for violating national security laws, according to state media.

The crackdown on journalists and their companies prompted global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders to drop Myanmar to 175 out of 180 countries in its 2022 World Press Freedom Index from 140 last year.