Myanmar junta jails photojournalists

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Anti-coup marching strike in Tanintharyi's Dawei district in defiance of military rules

ONE media worker has been sentenced and jailed and another detained amid rising attacks against the press by the military junta in Myanmar.

A freelance photographer was violently detained by junta troops, and former photojournalist Ko Zaw Zaw was sentenced to three years in prison on August 20 and 24 respectively, amid rising attacks on media workers in Myanmar.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the military’s crackdown on press freedom and freedom of expression and calls for the immediate release of all detained journalists and media workers.
On August 20, a freelance photographer and an anti-regime protester, both students at SMVTI vocational training institute who had attended the Yangon People’s Strike in early August, were arrested by Myanmar’s military junta.
According to the organisers of the strike, both arrests were carried out by multiple junta troops who forced their way into the homes of both individuals in the Tamwe and Mayangone Townships, seized many of their possessions and transported them to a military interrogation centre.
In a separate incident on August 25th, a court sentenced former photojournalist Ko Zaw Zaw to three years in prison for incitement under Article 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code.
The journalist was accused of promoting instability in Myanmar by posting photos of anti-regime protests and the junta’s regular use of violence on social media.
Despite retiring as a photojournalist after the military coup in February 2021, Zaw Zaw was arrested on April 9, 2022, and sent to Obo Prison in Mandalay after being interrogated for over a month.
Since the military coup in February 2021, journalists and media workers have faced increasingly poor working conditions and severe safety and security threats.
On July 29, journalist Maung Maung Myo was sentenced to six years imprisonment for possessing interviews with insurgent group members fighting Myanmar’s military regime. Within the same week, journalist Toru Kubota was detained while filming a protest in Yangon.
On July 28, the South East Asia Journalists Unions (SEAJU) strongly condemned the junta’s execution of four pro-democracy activists, the first use of capital punishment in Myanmar since 1988, and the continued assault on human rights and press freedom under the military regime.
The IFJ said: ‘Under Myanmar’s military regime, journalists and media workers have been increasingly persecuted and become the victims of arbitrary violent attacks, intimidation, and harassment.
‘The IFJ condemns the sentencing of Ko Zaw Zaw and the arrests of the two student protesters and urges the junta to respect press freedom and human rights in Myanmar.’
On August 8th, the IFJ reported that photographer and activist Aye Kyaw, who was known for documenting anti-junta protests, has been reported dead in custody after his arrest on July 30th.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said it ‘strongly condemns the killing and urges Myanmar’s military junta to immediately investigate the incident and cease its persecution of journalists, media workers and activists.’
Aye Kyaw, the owner of the Sagaing city Harman Photography studio and a member of the Upper Myanmar Photography Association, was arrested in the early morning of July 30.
Speaking with Radio Free Asia, Aye Kyaw’s relatives said members of the military arrived at his home in a convoy of six vehicles, under the premise that weapons were allegedly stored on the property. The photographer was detained despite no weapons being found.
Approximately ten hours later, the administrator of the Aung Chanthar ward contacted Aye Kyaw’s family to inform them that he had died, with his body being held in Sagaing City Hospital’s mortuary.
According to reports, the body was left outside of the hospital to be collected by a local charity burial organisation, the Ohbo Health and Social Assistance Association.
The cause of Aye Kyaw’s death remained unclear and an official from the burial organisation said: ‘We didn’t see any superficial wounds on the body but I noticed his chest was sewn up like a postmortem. I didn’t see any injuries or leaking body fluids.’
One Sagaing resident close to the deceased reported deep bruising on the photographer’s body, while another resident said the lack of external injuries indicated Aye Kyaw had died due to extreme torture.
Aye Kyaw had been active in documenting protests and anti-junta activities in Myanmar, with his work often shared on social media by politicians and local media.
In the previous two weeks, the IFJ had documented an increasing crackdown, with four pro-democracy activists executed on July 24, to international condemnation.
On July 29, freelance journalist Maung Maung Myo was sentenced to six years in prison for possessing images and interviews of insurgent groups. The same day, Japanese video journalist Toru Kobuto was arrested during a protest in Yangon.

  • Myanmar trade unions and civil society organisations are facing an existential threat following the military take-over.

The military take-over in Myanmar has taken a severe toll on trade unions and Civil Society organisations (CSOs) providing services to workers and migrants, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Riding out the storm: Organisational resilience of trade unions and civil society organisations following the military take-over in Myanmar details the severe impact of the February 2021 take-over on trade unions and CSOs.
On 1st February 2021, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) seized power, declared a state of emergency and detained all levels of the democratically elected civilian government.
Soon afterwards, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population announced that 16 unregistered trade unions and civil society organisations were operating as ‘illegal labour organisations’.
Organisations that have been declared illegal are now unable to operate without fear of harassment and arrest.
The ILO conducted an assessment of the organisation resilience of trade unions and civil society organisations in Myanmar to identify how international organisations can most effectively provide support for their continued operation.
The study analyses the impact of the military takeover on the work of trade unions and civil society organisations, the ongoing risks they face, the mitigation strategies they have developed, and their organisational needs during this time.
In addition, the assessment provides a set of recommendations for the international community on how to expand the resilience of trade unions and civil society organisation, guided by the voices of the organisations themselves.
It highlights how the targeted persecution of these groups, including arbitrary arrests, detentions, acts of violence, raids on homes and offices, seizure of equipment, threatening phone calls, interrogations and surveillance, have substantially limited their ability to operate.
Trade unions and CSOs reported being forced to make major adjustments to their work in response to the heightened safety and security concerns since the military takeover.
‘Trade unions and Civil Society organisations have provided the foundation for much of the progress made on increasing labour rights protection in Myanmar over the last decade. The current state of affairs represents a genuine threat to their existence.
‘The international community must stand with these organisations to help them survive and continue their vital work,’ said Panudda Boonpala, ILO Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
The report recommends that the international community increases its flexibility and responsiveness to counter this existential threat to civic space and worker organising in Myanmar.