Two Yangon journalists in legal limbo after 9 months in Insein Prison

Htet Htet Aung, editor of Thingangyun Post, at left, and Wai Lin Yu, reporter and cofounder, at right. Photos: Facebook
Htet Htet Aung, editor of Thingangyun Post, at left, and Wai Lin Yu, reporter and cofounder, at right. Photos: Facebook

Two young journalists from Yangon news media outlet Thingangyun Post are still waiting for their trials to commence, nine months after they were jailed at a notorious prison.

A lawyer representing Htet Htet Aung, the outlet’s 30-year-old editor; and cofounder Wai Lin Yu, 31; told Coconuts this morning that the prosecutor has not even attended the pair’s scheduled hearings while they languish inside Insein Prison.

“Initially, the court was closed due to COVID-19 regulations, and it took us about five months to arrive at the district special court,” the lawyer said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.  “We have come to court three times but their cases have not been heard yet since the prosecutor did not appear at all three hearings”.

He said the next hearing was Wednesday, adding that Aung was facing many difficulties, especially since members of her family have also been arrested and charged.

They were arrested Sept. 11 and charged under Section 5 of the Explosive Substances Act. 

As part of its campaign to stamp out resistance, the ruling junta has jailed and prosecuted dozens of reporters, prompting many to flee the country.

Charges against journalists ramped up in March, and two more convictions in recent days added up to 22 reporters convicted of various charges, while 48 remain in detention. 

A week after being found guilty of incitement, Kamayut Media cofounder Han Thar Nyein was charged with violating the Electronic Transactions Law, which carries stiffer penalties. 

Nyein Chan Wai of Bago Weekly was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on a second conviction of incitement under the Counter-Terrorism Law, on top of a three-year sentence he received in December. 

Three journalists were killed by the junta in December and January. Two died as a result of  intense torture while in custody.

In the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, Myanmar placed 176th out of 180 countries as the so-called State Administration Council rolled back modest press freedom gains since 2011.
“With the risks of being jailed, tortured or murdered, journalism is an extremely dangerous profession in Myanmar, which has become one of the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, second only to China. The few accounts emerging from Myanmar’s jails indicate extremely harsh conditions and systemic use of torture,” Reporters Without Borders reported last week.

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