A Myanmar court formally charged five journalists on Friday, 12 March, over their coverage of anti-coup protests, after a week in which the military junta raided newsrooms and revoked media licences.
The country has been in uproar since a February 1 coup that deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power, triggering a mass uprising that has brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets to demand a return to democracy.
Five journalists covering an anti-coup protest in Yangon last month were arrested and are facing charges of “causing fear, spreading false news or agitating directly or indirectly a government employee”.
The junta had amended the law after the coup, increasing the maximum sentence from two years to three years in jail.
Friday’s hearing saw the five journalists who were present via video conference formally charged, as a US embassy representative waited outside the court.
Their hearing comes at the end of a week that saw the offices of two local media outlets Myanmar Now and Mizzima raided.
They also had their publishing licences revoked, as did independent media, DVB, Khit Thit and 7Day News.
Mizzima’s editor Soe Myint said Thursday via video conference during a panel at the foreign correspondents’ club of Thailand that his staff were ‘well prepared’ for such a crackdown on the press.
“Personally, I’m ready to face any issue, including being arrested or being killed,” Soe Myint told the panel.
“This is what we have to do in order to be an independent media in the country.”