14 Nov NGO calls on Myanmar to uphold media freedom

Written by Mizzima Published in Media Read 4055 times
Protesters call for an inquiry into the death of journalist Ko Aung Kyaw Naing, allegedly at the hands of the army,  in front of Yangon City Hall on October 26. Photo: Nyain Thit Nyi/Mizzima Protesters call for an inquiry into the death of journalist Ko Aung Kyaw Naing, allegedly at the hands of the army, in front of Yangon City Hall on October 26. Photo: Nyain Thit Nyi/Mizzima

The International Press Institute has called on Myanmar to thoroughly investigate the recent death of a journalist at the hands of the military and to release five staffers from a weekly newspaper sentenced to seven years behind bars, according to press release from the NGO November 13.

In an open letter, IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie urged Myanmar Attorney General Dr. Tun Shin to ensure that an investigation being conducted in connection with the death of journalist Ko Aung Kyaw Naing aka Ko Par Gyi is speedy and transparent.

She also called for the release of five imprisoned Unity Weekly staff members who were arrested in January and convicted in July on charges of violating the country’s Official Secrets Act.

Ko Aung Kyaw Naing was reportedly killed while in military custody on October 4after being arrested in Mon state at the end of September while covering violent clashes in the region between Myanmar’s military forces and an armed rebel group. Military authorities’ assertion that Ko Aung Kyaw Naing was arrested as a member of the rebel force and shot as he tried to escape caused outcry from activists, his family and the media community in Myanmar.

President U Thein Sein ordered an investigation and Ko Aung Kyaw Naing’s body last week was exhumed and sent for examination. Early reports suggested he had been tortured while in military custody.

The NGO’s letter also addresses the case of four Unity Weekly journalists and the newspaper’s CEO whose convictions stem from their reporting on a secret factory that was allegedly designed to manufacture chemical weapons. After an appeal, their sentences were cut from 10 to seven years in prison.

Ms McKenzie reportedly raised the issue of the Unity Weekly journalists’ imprisonment with Myanmar’s information minister and presidential advisor, U Ye Htut, during a visit to Myanmar in August.

The minister, however, told delegates during a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw: “The president says that as long as they are in court, he cannot intervene.” U Ye Htut said that the president will consider his involvement in the fate of the four Unity Weekly journalists and its CEO after they have exhausted the appeals process.