A Myanmar photojournalist has been sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labor for covering the aftermath of Hurricane Mocha. It concerns Sai Zaw Thaike, who works for the now underground news site Myanmar Now.
“His conviction is yet another proof that press freedom is being trampled under junta rule and shows the high price independent journalists in Myanmar have to pay for their professional work,” said the editor-in-chief of Myanmar Now.
Myanmar Now reports that Thaike was arrested on May 23, more than a week after the hurricane hit Myanmar. He was initially charged with misinformation and sedition, Myanmar Now writes. It is not clear on what charges he was convicted.
Hurricane Mocha caused massive damage in May, killing more than 140 people. Most of them belonged to the Rohingya minority living in appalling conditions in camps. The storm also damaged more than 186,000 buildings.
Thaike is the second Myanmar Now journalist to be arrested by the country’s military leaders since 2021. A video journalist was arrested while covering a demonstration against the coup. He was released after several months.
Violence and oppression
In February 2021, the army deposed democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and took power. This led to massive protests, which were brutally crushed. Since then, the country has been gripped by violence and repression by the junta.
Today, Suu Kyi’s son announced that his mother is in poor health. She has been imprisoned since her deposition by the military. She has been sentenced to decades in prison and has been under house arrest since July. According to her son, she needs urgent medical attention, but is not getting it.
In total, since 2021, the licenses of 13 media organizations, including Myanmar Now, have been revoked and at least 156 journalists have been arrested. At least 50 of them were still detained in May this year, Myanmar Now writes.
Four journalists have died since 2021, reports action group Reporters without Borders (RSF). Two of them died in captivity as a result of beatings. On a global press freedom ranking, Myanmar ranks 173rd out of 180 countries.
Myanmar Now remains committed to bringing news and information to the people of the country, the editor-in-chief said. “Despite the immense challenges we face.”
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