Myanmar court adds three years to BBC journalist’s sentence

A junta-controlled court has handed a BBC journalist her second three-year prison sentence in less than two weeks after finding her guilty of involvement with Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG).

The journalist, Htet Htet Khine, received the sentence on Tuesday after being convicted on charges of violating Section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, according to her family.

The sentence was handed down by a special court inside Yangon’s Insein Prison, where she is currently being held. 

On September 15, she was sentenced to three years with hard labour by a Bahan Township court that had found her guilty of incitement under Section 505a of the Penal Code.

A lawyer involved in her case said that the sentence would be appealed.

“Htet Htet Khine herself told me to appeal,” said the lawyer, who did not want to be identified.

Htet Htet Khine was arrested in Bahan Township in August of last year along with well-known columnist Sithu Aung Myint, who was wanted by Myanmar’s military authorities.

When she was taken into custody, she was accused of harbouring Sithu Aung Myint in her home and of working as an editor for Federal FM, a radio station run by the NUG.

The regime has designated the NUG, which was formed by members of the elected government ousted by last year’s coup, a terrorist organisation. 

Family members told Myanmar Now they weren’t surprised by the latest sentence, but expressed concern about Htet Htet Khine’s condition after more than a year of incarceration.

“We’re all just very worried about her health. This is exactly what we expected, but it is still upsetting as it is so unjust. But she was very calm about it. She just told the family to stay in contact with her through her lawyers,” said a relative.

BBC Media Action, which had employed Htet Htet Khine as a presenter and freelance producer, released a statement expressing concern for her safety following her arrest.

According to data compiled by a Facebook group called Detained Journalists Information Myanmar, at least 142 journalists have been arrested since the military seized power in a coup on February 1, 2021.

At a press conference last Tuesday, the regime warned that it would deal harshly with those who donate even small amounts of money to the NUG or other resistance groups. Those who support anti-regime forces could face the death penalty if convicted, it said.

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