The repressive tactics being used against journalists trying to cover the coup in Myanmar and its aftermath have come under sharp criticism from Amnesty International and other rights organizations.
Local reporters have been forced to go into hiding because of attacks and foreign journalists have been stalked and kept from doing their jobs, Markus Beeko, head of Amnesty International in Germany, told dpa.
The recent detention of Polish journalist Robert Bociaga “fits in with this picture and should be condemned in the harshest manner,” Beeko asserted.
Bociaga, who works for dpa and other media in Myanmar, was taken into custody in Taunggyi by security forces on Thursday, according to media reports. He was reportedly struck while being detained.
The German embassy in Myanmar is trying to gain access to Bociaga. His whereabouts are unknown. On Saturday, it called for Bociago to receive “fair and humane treatment.”
Tensions have been building in Myanmar since a military coup on February 1, which has drawn protesters into the street demanding the restoration of the civilian government. Those have in turn drawn increasingly violent responses from security forces, which are not just lashing out at demonstrators, but at the reporters covering the unrest.
Beeko said journalists on the ground and the world’s attention are the most important allies right now for the people in Myanmar. International reporting is important to keep the world’s attention focused on Myanmar and to push back against violence by the authorities.
“If journalists are hindered in their work, then there’s the risk the current hardships and human rights violations will get covered up.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for the immediate and unconditional release of journalists wrongly detained in Myanmar.
In a statement mentioning Thein Zaw, a journalist working for the Associated Press, and at least six other members of the press, Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, said, “The abuse of vague criminal charges to jail journalists is tantamount to making all news reporting a crime. Myanmar’s junta must stop detaining journalists and allow reporters to do their jobs without fear of reprisal.”
On Friday, a court in Myanmar extended the pre-trial detention period of Thein Zaw who was one of nine journalists detained during a protest on February 27 in Yangon, AP said.