Myanmar charges journalist with terrorism for interviewing rebel group

The chief editor of a Mandalay-based news organization is now behind bars and faces life in prison for interviewing a rebel leader.

Nay Myo Lin was detained Monday by undercover police officers at his home amid a wider crackdown on reporters and their work. His employer, Voice of Myanmar, said officers from the Criminal Investigative Department raided and searched its offices on Tuesday.

In a clip filmed outside the courtroom, the reporter said he practicing good-faith journalism by interviewing the Arakan Army, a group calling for self-determination in Rakhine State. It has fought against the Tatmadaw and was recently declared a terrorist organization.

“I wrote it for peace. I wrote it in line with journalistic ethics. This is a disturbance to the free press,” he told reporters in front of the courthouse before being shoved away by policemen in surgical masks.

He was charged under articles 50(a) and 52(a) of the counter-terrorism law, both of which carry maximum sentences of life behind bars for violating. The minimum sentence is 10 years.

The deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch called it “outrageous” in a tweet.

“Outrageous & unacceptable violation of media freedom in #Burma! The #Tatmadaw should drop these ridiculous charges vs Voice of #Myanmar editor Nay Myo Lin, allow journalists to do their jobs in #Rakhine without interference,” Phil Robertson tweeted this morning.

Nay Myo Lin’s story, Peace Process has Stopped, was published online by Voice of Myanmar on Friday, the same day the country’s autonomous army celebrated Armed Forces Day. A spokesperson for the Arakan Army, which the government has declared a terrorist organization, was featured in the story.

Voice of Myanmar said its website was no longer accessible as of yesterday. Coconuts Yangon could access neither the site nor article in question as of publication time. It was also unavailable outside Myanmar.

Telenor, one of major national telecoms, said in a press release that it had blocked access to more than 200 websites on the government’s order. Fourteen news websites were banned for allegedly spreading “fake news.”

Asked about the blacklisted sites, Telenor representatives refused to comment or identify them.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that the Arakan Army was fighting to self-determination in Kahine State. It is in fact Rakhine.

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