Myanmar Human Rights Commissioner declares detained journalists did not violate any laws

(L-R) Aye Nai, Pyae Phone Aung, and Lawi Weng were arrested on June 26 and are being prosecuted under the Unlawful Associations Act.

Three journalists who are current being detained in Shan State’s Hsipaw Prison were granted permission to meet with the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission this week. Following the meeting, the commissioner told media that the reporters had not breached any laws.

Yu Lwin Aung, a member of the commission, met with The Irrawaddy’s Lawi Weng, as well as the Democratic Voice of Burma’s Aye Naing and Pyae Phone Aung, reports The Irrawaddy. The meeting was part of an MNHRC inspection of prisons in Shan State.

The commissioner told media that he interviewed each of the journalists and spent nearly six hours with them.

The reporters are currently being tried under the Unlawful Associations Act, and face three-year prison sentences each. Along with four other men, the journalists were detained by soldiers on June 26 while returning from Namhsan Township, after covering an anti-drug event organized by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army. They are accused of having connections with the TNLA.

During his inspection, officials told Yu Lwin Aung that the reporters had shown their ID cards at the security gates leading to the event area.

“They said Namhsan is not a prohibited town by any law. There were administration members, teachers, doctors, and locals from the area attending the anti-drug ceremony by the TNLA,” the commissioner told The Irrawaddy.

The journalists appeared in court for the second time last week, where there requests for bail were denied.

The commissioner also stated that he will be relaying his findings to the rest of the MNHRC, who will then forward the report to a government ministry once a full commission meeting is held.

Following their first hearing, Lawi Weng held up his chained wrists outside of the courthouse and told reporters, “I am now in handcuffs because I am a journalist. Is this democracy?”

Aye Naing added: “This is a shame for Myanmar, which is shouting to the world that we are on the path to democracy.”

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