Freelance journalist charged with incitement in Myanmar-Thai border town

A freelance journalist based in Myawaddy, Karen State—across the border from Thailand—has been charged with violating Section 505a of the Penal Code for incitement, according to a family friend. 

While the reason for his arrest has not been confirmed, the source said that Nay Naw, also known as Myo Naung Naung Zaw, was accused of incitement after a March 27 report he published on social media. 

Nay Naw, also known as Myo Naung Naung Zaw (Supplied)

He wrote that two trucks were shot at and set on fire near the Taw Naw waterfall along the section of the Asian Highway that connects Myawaddy with Kawkareik, and noted that “serious battles” were taking place in the area between the Myanmar army and resistance forces.

The friend said that he learned of Nay Naw’s arrest on Tuesday through another social media post by an account under the name of Thurin Min Tun, who said that the journalist had been detained on Monday. Further information about this individual was not available at the time of reporting. 

“They said he reported false news and charged him under Section 505a,” the source said. 

Nay Naw reportedly went to the Myawaddy police station on Monday after being summoned twice, and was taken into junta custody. 

It is not known where he was being held at the time of reporting. His family has not been allowed to see him. 

Nan Paw Gay, the editor-in-chief of the Karen State-based KIC news organisation, said that Nay Naw had worked as a freelancer but contributed to KIC.

“We only saw that all his news stories sent to us were based on facts. He always based his news stories on evidence. He did not accuse anyone of anything without evidence,” she said. 

A total of 115 journalists have been arrested by the military council since the February 2021 coup, and 39 were still in detention at the time of reporting, according to data compiled by journalists. Three media workers have died during interrogations or in fighting. 

Myanmar has more detained journalists than any other country in the world, except China, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. 

Journalists and activists are frequently charged with violating 505a; the section was amended by military chief Min Aung Hlaing weeks after staging a coup and prohibits the spreading of false information, causing fear, or calling for action to be taken against government employees. It is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.  

At least 1,315 people have been detained under Section 505a, according to records compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.  

Four journalists—from Kamayut Media, Mizzima, Mandalay Free Press, the Ayeyarwady Region-based Myanmar Herald—were given two-year prison sentences by junta courts for incitement in March alone. 

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