EU lawmakers on Thursday condemned the crackdown on media freedom in military-ruled Myanmar and called for the release of “every unfairly detained journalist.”
Since the military seized power in February last year, it has forced at least 12 media outlets to shut down and arrested about 142 journalists, 57 of whom remain detained.
Most of those still detained are being held under an incitement charge for allegedly causing fear, spreading false news or agitating against a government employee.
In its resolution adopted by show of hands, the EU Parliament cited the cases of BBC freelance producer Htet Htet Khine; Sithu Aung Myint, a Frontier Myanmar columnist and contributor to Voice of America; and freelancer Nyein Nyein Aye.
“Strongly condemning the military junta’s violent and illegitimate rule in Myanmar, MEPs urge it to drop all politically motivated charges against the members of the press and media workers, and unconditionally release every unfairly detained journalist,” the EU Parliament said.
“They also call on the junta to immediately end its abuses, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence and other ill-treatment, as well as unfair trials against people working in the media.”
According to Reporters Without Borders, Nyein Nyein Aye was sentenced in July to three years in prison with hard labor on charges of “causing fear, spreading false news and agitating crimes against a government employee.”
Htet Htet Khine was sentenced on Sept. 15 to three years’ hard labor. On Sept. 27, a court sentenced her to a further three years, with a reduction for time served. She has been in detention since August 2021.
“We remain concerned for her safety and wellbeing in detention, and call for the release of Htet Htet Khine and other media workers who have been unjustly detained in Myanmar,” said BBC Media Action Chief Executive Officer Caroline Nursey.
Sithu Aung Myint was arrested in August 2021 along with Htet Htet Khine.
Some of the closed media outlets have continued operating without a license, publishing online as their staff members dodge arrest. Others operate from exile.
The army’s takeover led to mass public protests that the military and police responded to with lethal force, triggering armed resistance and escalating violence that have led to what some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war.
According to detailed lists by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group based in Thailand, 2,336 civilians have died in the military government’s crackdown on opponents and at least 15,757 people have been arrested.
EU lawmakers also called for restoration of the civilian government and the “unconditional release” of Myanmar’s former president, Win Myint, and former leader Aung San Suu Kyi.