Monthly Briefing on Freedom of Expression [Jan_2024]

February 22, 2024

Shin Dawe, a freelance filmmaker, was arrested in North Okkalapa, Yangon, on 15 October 2023 while she was collecting her filming drone from an online pre-order. 

After the arbitrary arrest and brutal persecution in the military interrogation centre for a week, she was sentenced to life imprisonment under the combination of two lawsuits of section 50(j) and section 54(d) of the Counter Terrorism Law in Insein prison on 10 January 2024. She is the first female journalist and filmmaker to be convicted of life imprisonment at the beginning of 2024. 

The first life imprisonment of a journalist was toward a freelance journalist, Kyaw Aung Aka Min Min, who was charged under section 54 of the Counter Terrorism Act on December 28, 2022.

Htet Aung, a journalist from Development Media Group (DMG), was prosecuted under a new lawsuit, section 52(a) of the Counter Terrorism Act in Sittwe, Rakhine State, on 5 January 2024. 

Htet Aung was arrested at an almsgiving event of the Thadingyut Festival in Sittwe, Rakhine State, by the junta security forces.  

After he was arrested, the Junta’s security forces pressured him to disclose the location of the DMG’s office, where he was working, and the office was confiscated on 29 October 2023.

On 31 January 2024, the military group released an announcement that required the renewal of the license on the printing, publishing, and news media enterprise after 60 days of expiry with the payment of 10,000 MMKs. According to the announcement, legal actions will be taken against any news media agencies holding expired licenses and punished according to the Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law.

The license of two publishing houses, Toemyit (တိုးမြစ်) and Lapyae Lin (လပြည့်လင်း) Publishing, were revoked by the military junta’s ministry of information on 27 January 2024. 
The junta accused these publishing houses violated section 8(b) of the Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law, which punishes “show things which can harass national security, rules of law, public order or the rights of every citizen such as equality, freedom and balance of law”.

Nationwide incident Since the Attamped Coup (Arrest Based On Region)
Monitoring media repression in Myanmar

In January 2024, at least three individuals were arrested, allegedly accused, and sued under various infamous laws, according to our daily monitoring records. It is learned that the junta regime has been consistently targeting the freedom of speech in Myanmar to muzzle the voices and exercise of expressing daily tragedies, basic needs, and criticism of the junta.

A total of three male individuals were arrested in January 2024. All these arrested victims are ordinary citizens for criticism and defamation of the junta, sharing and posting the People Defense Forces (PDF) online.

Aung Khant Moe, a 20-year-old citizen, was arrested in Thanbuzayat township, Mon State in January 2024. According to Eleven Media’s report, he was filed with section 52(a) of the Counter Terrorism Act to allegedly be accused of supporting the PDF by posting and sharing the news.

Maung Maung, a 70-year-old citizen, was arrested in Hinthada township, Ayeyarwaddy Region, on 2 January 2024 because of sharing the news of the media on his Facebook social media platform. He was prosecuted under 505A of the Penal Code with the junta’s accusation of spreading false news to cause fear among the citizens and defamation of the junta. A local media outlet, Ayeyarwaddy Times, reported that he was a former party member of NLD and had been closely watched by a military informant on his movement and activities.

“A group of military soldiers, estimated around 50, came and arrested him. He wasn’t in good health condition… he shared news and articles (published by news outlets whose license had been revoked by the junta) on his timeline to read later. An informer reported to him,”

said a local person

On 28 January 2024, an ordinary citizen, Kyaw Soe Aung, was arrested and charged with sections 52(a) and (b) of the Counter Terrorism Act in Shwe Nyaung township, Southern Shan State, for the accusation of defamation and supporting rations to the PDFs. He was first arrested and interrogated by the military soldiers, then transferred to security policies.

Local people who have known him told a news outlet, DVB, that he was arrested due to being reported by the members of USDP and members of the ultra-nationalist MaBaTha (The Patriotic Association of Myanmar). He was a truck driver transporting goods and commodities across the country whose job had nothing to do with the PDFs. After checking his belongings and mobile phone devices, the security forces reported the findings of supporting documents related to PDFs.

Two of the victims were charged with section 52(a) of the Counter Terrorism Act and the other one with section 505A of the Penal Code. These lawsuits were unjustly utilised to oppress people’s expression. These oppressive manners of the military regime show egregious FOE violations as these laws are not supposedly used for prosecutions.

Hla Myat Thway, a former minister of social affairs, was released with amnesty on Independence Day from Pathein Prison on 4 January 2024 after two years of imprisonment with section 505(b) of the Penal Code on 30 January 2023. She was detained under house arrest for releasing a statement announcing public holidays till the formation of the new government with the 2020-elected candidates in Pathein, Ayeyarwaddy, on 10 January 2021.

Dr. Ye Lwin, a former mayor of Mandalay City, was released with amnesty of Independence Day from Obo-Prison along with other political prisoners on 4 January 2024 after two years imprisonment with section 409 of the Penal Code on 3 February 2023. The regime’s controlled count added an additional charge with section 505(b) of the Penal Code to serve two more years of imprisonment to the former mayor, Dr. Ye Lwin, just before his prison term was almost completed.

Su May Aung, a chemistry student, died in Magway prison on 22 January 2024 because her access to health care was denied by the prison authorities even though the family and other political prisoners requested medical care in the prison hospital. She was arrested and sentenced to 15 years under section 50(j) of the Counter Terrorism Act in Magway in early 2022. On the other hand, the disciplinary department of the junta is trying not to leak any information about prison deaths by any means outside to cut off the information flow.

To read “Reporting from the Darkness: Journalism and Media in Myanmar” Report: >>