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Bangkok, May 16, 2024—Myanmar must drop all pending charges against detained Rakhine State reporter Htet Aung and stop using false allegations of terrorism to intimidate and jail reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

Military authorities filed a terrorism charge against Htet Aung in January, in addition to an existing defamation charge, but his family and lawyers were not made aware of this until May, his editor-in-chief at the Development Media Group news agency, Aung Marm Oo, who has been in hiding since 2019 after being charged under the Unlawful Association Act, told CPJ via text message.

The new charge carries a maximum seven-year prison penalty under Section 52(a) of the Anti-Terrorism Law. Htet Aung was also charged with defamation under Section 65 of the Telecommunications Law, which allows for a sentence of up to five years. He faces a potential 12 years in prison if found guilty of both charges.

“Myanmar authorities must cease their senseless legal persecution of Development Media Group reporter Htet Aung and set him free immediately,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar must stop leveling terrorism charges against journalists for merely doing their jobs of reporting the news.”

According to Aung Marm Oo, no details of either charge against Htet Aung have been revealed to his family or lawyers. Htet Aung is being held in pre-trial detention at western Rakhine State’s Sittwe Prison, according to Aung Marm Oo.

Htet Aung was arrested in October while taking photos of soldiers making donations to Buddhist monks during a religious festival in the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe. Hours later, soldiers, police, and special branch officials raided the Development Media Group’s bureau; confiscated cameras, computers, documents, financial records, and cash; and sealed off the building. The agency’s staff went into hiding.

Development Media Group specializes in news from Rakhine State, where in 2017, an army operation drove more than half a million Muslim Rohingyas to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in what the United Nations called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

On the day of Htet Aung’s arrest, Development Media Group published an interview with the wife of a man who was arrested in 2022 and was on trial for incitement and unlawful association in Rakhine State, also known as Arakan State, where insurgents are challenging the military. The woman said her husband was innocent and criticized the regime.

Myanmar was the second-worst jailer of journalists worldwide in CPJ’s 2023 prison census, with at least 43 reporters held behind bars. Several of those journalists are being held on terrorism convictions, CPJ research shows.

This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.


[1] Htet Aung - Committee to Protect Journalists ➤[2] Myanmar junta raids Rakhine State news agency, arrests journalist - Committee to Protect Journalists ➤[3] Burma's treatment of Rohingyas is 'textbook example of ethnic cleansing', UN says ➤[4] Interview: Political prisoner’s wife talks hardships of life in his absence - Development Media Group ➤[5] 2023 prison census: Jailed journalist numbers near record high; Israel imprisonments spike - Committee to Protect Journalists ➤[6] Explore CPJ's database of attacks on the press ➤