Home World A Burmese photojournalist receives a 20-year prison sentence for covering the aftermath of a cyclone

A Burmese photojournalist receives a 20-year prison sentence for covering the aftermath of a cyclone

A Burmese photojournalist receives a 20-year prison sentence for covering the aftermath of a cyclone

  • A Burmese court has handed down a harsh sentence to 20 years’ imprisonment with hard labor to a photojournalist linked to an underground news agency for his coverage of the aftermath of a devastating cyclone that hit the country in May.
  • During this judicial process, he was denied his right to receive visits from his family and legal representation, which underscores the harsh treatment independent journalists are subjected to under the military regime.
  • The cyclone claimed the lives of at least 148 people in Rakhine State, mostly Rohingya Muslims residing in IDP camps, and caused significant structural damage.

A Myanmar court has sentenced a photojournalist working for an underground news agency to 20 years in prison with hard labor for covering the aftermath of a deadly cyclone in May, the media organization said Wednesday.

The sentencing of Sai Zaw Thaike, a photographer with the independent online news service Myanmar Now, appears to be the harshest for any detained journalist since the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said in April that Burma is the world’s second largest jailer of journalists, after China. The country ranks near the bottom of the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 176 out of 180 countries.

Underground organization Myanmar Now reported that a military court had tried, convicted and sentenced Sai Zaw Thake, 40, during his first court session since his arrest in western Rakhine state.

The proceedings took place inside Insein prison in Yangon, Burma’s largest city, where the photographer was imprisoned after his arrest. The news agency said Sai Zaw Thaike was not allowed family visits and denied legal representation.

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“His sentencing is another indication that press freedom has been completely suppressed under the junta’s rule, and shows the heavy price independent journalists in Myanmar must pay for their professional work,” the news site quoted Myanmar Now editor-in-chief as saying. Sui Win as he says.

The news agency said Sai Zaw Thaike was arrested on May 23 in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine State, while recording the damage caused by Cyclone Mocha, the country’s most destructive storm in at least a decade. Moka made landfall near Sittwe just over a week before his arrest and caused widespread flooding and power outages.

The storm killed at least 148 people in Rakhine State, many of them members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority living in internally displaced persons camps, and damaged more than 186,000 buildings.

The news service said he was initially charged with several counts, including under a law that falls under the general heading of treason but is sometimes referred to as sedition. Other charges included incitement for allegedly inciting fear, spreading false news, and incitement against a government or military employee, charges that carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

He was also charged with online defamation, which carries a three-year prison sentence, and violating the Natural Disaster Management Act for allegedly publishing false information about a disaster with the intent to create public panic, a charge that carries a possible prison sentence of up to 100 years. One year.

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A Burmese journalist has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for covering the aftermath of a cyclone. (Fox News)

Myanmar Now said it did not know what charges the conviction, handed down on Wednesday, covered. Details of political trials are generally kept closely guarded by the authorities, and the Myanmar report cannot now be independently confirmed.

Sai Zaw Thake’s conviction is the latest assault on the freedom of the press and journalists by the country’s military-appointed government, which has severely cracked down on independent media.

The media licenses of at least 13 media outlets, including Myanmar Now, have been revoked, and at least 156 journalists have been arrested, about 50 of whom remain detained, according to the local monitoring group Information on Detained Journalists. Almost half of those still in detention have been convicted and sentenced.

At least four media workers were killed, and others were tortured while in detention.

Some of the media outlets ordered closed continued to operate underground without a license, posting online while their staff continued to report while trying to avoid arrest. Others work from exile.

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Myanmar Now’s Yangon office was raided by the military a month after seizing power in 2021, and some staff members, including editor-in-chief Soe Win, fled criminal charges and went into hiding while authorities sealed off their homes.

Sai Zaw Thaike was the second journalist from Myanmar to be arrested now. Video journalist Kai Zun Nway was arrested while covering an anti-coup protest in Yangon in late February 2021, and released four months later under a wide-ranging amnesty.

“(The asterisk) will not back down from our commitment to continue providing news and information to the people of Myanmar, despite the enormous challenges we face,” said Soe Win from exile.

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