Freelance reporter Soe Yarzar Tun faces up to 7 years in prison under anti-terror law

A court in Insein Prison last week indicted freelance journalist Soe Yarzar Tun under Section 52a of the Counter-Terrorism Law, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years, lawyers have told Myanmar Now. 

The reporter was detained in Bago Region’s Thone Sel Township on March 10, just days after he escaped arrest when fifty soldiers raided a monastery in Bago where he was practising as a monk.

He was held at the Phayar Lay Interrogation Center in Yangon’s Hlegu Township and then sent to the local police station, a family member said, adding it was likely the journalist was tortured under interrogation. 

“We sent him some food and some money when he was being held at the Hlegu Central Police Station but we weren’t allowed to see him,” the relative said. “We managed to communicate through hand signals from afar and he signalled back at us from behind bars.” 

The relative speculated that the junta filed a terrorism charge based on information found on the journalist’s phone after his arrest. 

In March last year he was arrested while covering anti-coup protests and charged with incitement under Section 505a of the Penal Code. He was released on June 30. 

The date of next court hearing for the terrorism charge is not yet known, a group of lawyers helping political prisoners said. 

A total of 115 journalists have been detained since last February’s coup, and 39 of them are still in prison. 

Another three journalists–Sai Win Aung, Pu Tuidim and Soe Naing have been killed by the junta’s forces since December, according to the International Federation of Journalists

Last year, Myanmar had the second-highest number of journalists behind bars in the world after China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. 

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