Participants of the Fifth Ethnic Media Conference have submitted an open letter to the President, the State Counsellor and the Tatmadaw’s Commander-in-Chief calling for the release of three journalists who have been detained in Shan State.
After holding an emergency session on the issue of the detained journalists from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and the Irrawaddy, 25 media organizations attending the Ethnic Media Conference in Loikaw submitted the open letter.
“We demand the government release the detained journalists and stop making unfair arrests,” director of Burma News International (BNI) Nai Kasauh Mon said.
The Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services announced on June 26 that Ko Aye Naing and Ko Pyae Phone Aung from the DVB and Ko Lawi Weng (also known as Thein Zaw) from the Irrawaddy were arrested between Namhsan and Hsipaw in Shan State on suspicion of having relations with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
The journalists were covering a drug eradication event in a TNLA-controlled area.
The Irrawaddy has since reported that the military plans to charge the individuals under the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act which means they could face prison.
Ko Toe Zaw Latt from the DVB said the exact situation of the detained journalists remains unknown as they could not be found at Namhsan Police Station and Lashio Police Station.
“If this continues to happen whenever we meet with ethnic armed groups that have not signed the ceasefire agreement, there will be [severe] problems around access to information,” Ko Toe Zaw Latt said.
Fifth Ethnic Media Conference participants expressed their concern about the intimidation against journalists and what this means in a newly-democratic Myanmar.
The TNLA and the Palaung State Liberation Front also released a statement denouncing the arrests of the journalists and urged international organizations, media and the public to strive for their release.