A BBC journalist and a former Mizzima News reporter were arrested by men believed to be plainclothes officers in Naypyitaw on Friday afternoon, a family member confirmed.
BBC Burmese journalist Aung Thura was in front of the Dekkhina District court to report on a hearing for National League for Democracy patron Win Htein when he was arrested. Former Mizzima correspondent Than Htike Aung was with him at the time of the arrest.
No further details of the arrest or the reporters’ detention were known at the time of reporting, according to Aung Thura’s relative.
“I saw some plainclothes officers dragging away a person in trousers into a car,” lawyer Min Min Soe, who was near the court at the time, told Myanmar Now. The man she saw is believed to be Than Htike Aung.
“Two other officers in plainclothes were hassling another individual in a paso [traditional sarong for men] and glasses,” she said, referring to Aung Thura. “It was quite a scene so I don’t know what happened next.”
BBC News issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying that they are “doing everything [they] can” to find Aung Thura, who they described as being taken away by unidentified men.
“We call on the authorities to help locate him and confirm that he is safe,” the statement said.
As of March 16, a total of 38 journalists had been arrested or targeted for arrest since the February 1 coup. The latest arrests of the BBC and former Mizzima journalists push this number up to 40.
Only 22 of these reporters have been released. Ten journalists have been charged with violating Section 505(a) of the penal code, which has been used against people who are seen as causing fear, spreading fake news, or agitating government employees. Under recent amendments to the law, the charges come with a three-year prison sentence if convicted.
Online news website The Irrawaddy has also been charged by the junta as violating the same statute for showing “disregard” for the armed forces in their reporting of the ongoing anti-regime protests.
Five publications, including Myanmar Now and Mizzima had their offices raided and their publishing licenses revoked earlier this month by the regime.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include the BBC’s statement, which was not available at the original time of publishing.