AP journalist charged in Myanmar

AP journalist charged in Myanmar
© Getty Images

An Associated Press reporter and five other journalists are facing up to three years in prison after authorities in Myanmar arrested and charged them with violating a public order law.

The Associated Press reports that one of its journalists, Thein Zaw, 32, was arrested while covering the anti-coup protests in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. Zaw was reportedly taken into custody on Saturday and could be held until March 12 without another hearing or court action.

Tin Zar Oo, an attorney representing Thein Zaw, told the AP that the journalists have been charged under a law that punishes those who cause public fear, knowingly spread false information or agitate criminal offense against a government employee.

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AP Vice President for International News Ian Phillips called for Zaw's immediate release.

“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution,” Phillips said. “AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”

The law was amended last month by the military junta in charge of the country, with amendments broadening its scope and raising the maximum sentence from two years to three years.

Reporters from Myanmar Now, Myanmar Photo Agency, 7Day News and Zee Kwet online news and one freelance reporter were also arrested, according to the AP.

“Myanmar authorities must release all journalists being held behind bars and stop threatening and harassing reporters for merely doing their jobs of covering anti-coup street protests,” Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said. “Myanmar must not return to the past dark ages where military rulers jailed journalists to stifle and censor news reporting.”

Continued protests have broken out across across Myanmar since the military coup in February that saw the democratically elected government removed from power. Dozens of deaths have been reported since the protests began, with security forces opening fire on demonstrators.

It was reported on Wednesday that at least nine people had died after forces opened fire on protesters.