Three journalists from Dawei Watch, an independent news site in Myanmar, were arrested this week on unspecified charges, an editor of the publication said.
The publisher, who asked to remain anonymous for his own safety, said the arrests took place on Tuesday and Wednesday in the southern town of Dawei, where the website is based. He said the reason for the arrests remained unclear.
“Family members have been allowed to send food and medicine. We don’t know what will happen next,” the editor told VOA Burmese. “Families weren’t allowed to sit and talk with them – just to watch them.”
The journalist said none of those detained showed signs of being beaten. “They are doing well and are stable, according to family members,” he said.
The first to be arrested was Moe Myint. The 35-year-old journalist, father of three, was arrested on Tuesday. Two of his colleagues, journalist Ko Zaw and web designer Thar Gyi, were arrested the next day.
Respect, but with rules
The junta said it respects the role of the media but will not allow information that is false or incites unrest.
“There is no reason to arrest, charge or imprison members of the media if they are doing their job,” army spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said recently. , at VOA Burmese.
He said foreign and local journalists work in Yangon, Naypyidaw and Mandalay and journalists are invited to press briefings.
“They can move freely,” Zaw Min Tun said. “However, if these media personnel encourage or incite or engage in terrorist activities, actions would be taken as criminals, as I have said before.”
The Dawei Watch editor called for the release of his colleagues.
“It’s getting worse and worse for journalists arrested like this,” he said. “The main thing is that all our journalists have the right to report what is really happening on the ground.”
Opposition activists in Dawei are under pressure. At the end of December, more than 30 people, including student activists, were sentenced to prison terms, some of up to 19 years, according to local reports.
Since seizing power in a February 2021 coup, the junta has revoked broadcast licenses and arrested dozens of journalists. At least one journalist died in military custody in December, and two others were killed.
One of them, the founder of Khonumthung Media Group, Pu Tuidim, had fled to neighboring India from Chin State, but was arrested on his return. His body was found on January 9, two days after it was abducted by the military, along with those of nine other people, according to reports.
The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) described the recent deaths of journalists as “a sign of the absolutely unacceptable practices increasingly employed by the junta”.
“We call on the international community to toughen the sanctions imposed on members of the junta in order to put an end to this dizzying escalation of terror,” Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, said in a statement.
At least 115 journalists have been detained since the February 1 coup, with 44 still behind bars, according to Reporting ASEAN, a Southeast Asian media advocacy group.
The Dawei Watch editor defended the work of the news site‘s team.
“Our journalists are not doing anything wrong. They are doing their job covering the situation on the ground,” he said.
Khin Soe Win contributed to this report, which comes from VOA’s Myanmar service. Some information comes from Reuters.