Myanmar’s military junta have formally brought criminal charges against an Associated Press photographer and five other local journalists over their coverage of anti-coup protests, their lawyer said.
AP photographer Thein Zaw, 32, was arrested on Saturday when he was covering a demonstration in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon.
Zaw’s lawyer said he and five other Myanmar journalists had been charged under a law against “causing fear, spreading false news or agitating directly or indirectly a government employee”.
The military-dominated State Administration Council (SAC) amended the law last month, to increase the maximum sentence from two years to three years in jail.
“Ko Thein Zaw was simply reporting, he was doing his job in keeping with existing media law,” said his lawyer Tin Zar Oo.
Oo said all six journalists were being held at Yangon’s infamous Insein prison.
The other five journalists are from Myanmar Now, Myanmar Photo Agency, 7Day News, Zee Kwet Online news and a freelancer.
AP’s Vice-President of international news Ian Philips has appealed for Thein Zaw’s immediate release.
“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution,” he said.
“AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”
A senior Myanmar Editor told this writer on condition of strict anonymity that the arrests were aimed at ” creating a climate of fear in Myanmar media.”
“The military wants to stop the extensive reporting of the protest demonstrations, they want the media to practise self-censorship,” the Editor said.
Meanwhile, six more protesters were shot dead on Wednesday as anti-military demonstrations continued across Myanmar.
Rescue workers said four were killed in Sagaing region bordering India and two in the country’s second largest city of Mandalay.