AP reporter released from prison, but 20 more journalists remain behind bars in Myanmar

Myanmar-based Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw was among the more than 600 detainees released from Insein Prison in Yangon on Wednesday.

He was arrested by the military regime on February 27 in Yangon while covering anti-coup protests along with five other journalists. They included Myanmar Now’s multimedia reporter Kay Zon Nway.

Lawyer Tin Zar Oo, a member of Thein Zaw’s legal defence team, said the plaintiff had withdrawn the lawsuit against him.

The other five journalists are still behind bars and facing charges of incitement under Section 505a of the Penal Code.  

Lawyer Nilar Khaing, who is representing Myanmar Now’s Kay Zon Nway, said on Wednesday that she would be requesting that her client’s case be withdrawn as well.

Her second hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Those released on Wednesday were largely youth and members of student unions who had been detained for protesting against Myanmar’s military coup. 

According to Detained Journalists Information Myanmar, a Facebook group run by journalists and writers, a total of 44 journalists have been arrested or targeted for arrest since the February 1 coup.

More than 20 of those reporters, including Thein Zaw, have been released.  

Around 20 journalists were still in regime custody at the time of reporting, 10 of whom have been charged under Section 505a of the Penal Code. The law prescribes up to three years in prison for causing fear, spreading fake news, or agitating against government employees. 

The coup regime’s spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told attendees at a news conference on Tuesday that the military respected the media and though reporting protests was allowed, leading them was a crime, Reuters reported.

The junta has also brought a case against The Irrawaddy news website under the same law for showing “disregard” for the armed forces in its reporting of anti-regime protests.

Five publications, including Myanmar Now and Mizzima, had their offices raided and their publishing licenses revoked earlier this month by the ruling junta.


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