Myanmar: Arbitrary detention of Mr. Nay Myo Lin and judicial harassment of four other journalists

03/04/2020
Urgent Appeal

MMR 002 / 0420 / OBS 032
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Myanmar
April 3, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Myanmar.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Nay Myo Lin, chief editor of Mandalay-based Voice of Myanmar (VOM), and the judicial harassment against Messrs. Khine Mrat Kyaw, editor-in-chief of the Rakhine State-based news outlet Narinjara News, Thein Zaw, Aung Lin Tun, and Tun Khaing, reporters at Narinjara News, and Hline Thit Zin Wai, editor-in-chief of the Khit Thit News Agency.

According to the information received, at approximately 9:00pm on March 30, 2020, Mr. Nay Myo Lin was arrested by plainclothes police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at his home and charged with violating Articles 50(a) and 52(a) of the Anti-Terrorism Law in relation to the publication of an interview with Mr. Khaing Thu Kha, the spokesperson of the Rakhine ethnic armed group Arakan Army (AA)[1]. On March 31, 2020, the Mandalay’s Chan Mya Tharzi Township Court ordered the remand of Mr. Nay Myo Lin for contacting Mr. Khaing Thu Kha and broadcasting the said interview on March 27, 2020.The interview, entitled “Peace process has stopped”, focused on the AA”s reaction to the Myanmar authorities’ official designation of the AA as a terrorist organisation on March 23 and the impact of this decision on the ongoing peace process between the Myanmar government and ethnic armed groups in the country.

As of publishing this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Nay Myo Lin remained detained in Mandalay’s Obo Prison. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a prison term ranging from three years to life imprisonment. The first court hearing is scheduled for April 9, 2020.

At approximately 5:00pm on March 31, 2020, 10 plainclothes police officers from the Special Branch and the CID searched the Sittwe office of Narinjara News, arrested Messrs. Thein Zaw, Aung Lin Tun, and Tun Khaing, and confiscated a computer. They took the three reporters into custody for questioning and released them at around 11:30pm. The three reporters, as well as Mr. Khine Mrat Kyaw, who was not present at the time of the raid, face charges under the Counter-Terrorism Law (Section 50(a) and 52(a)) for publishing an interview with the Arakan Army1 in a report on fighting in restive Rakhine State involving the ethnic armed group.

On the night of March 31, 2020, 10 plain clothes police officers went to Mr. Hline Thit Zin Wai’s house to question him without explaining the reasons. The interrogation was seemingly tied to the re-publication of VOM’s interview with AA spokesperson Khaing Thu Kha by Khit Thit News on March 20, 2020.

The above-referenced acts of harassment occurred amid a government crackdown on internet freedom. In late March 2020, under Article 77 of the 2013 Telecommunications Law, the Ministry of Communications and Transport ordered internet service providers to block more than 200 websites that the ministry accused of disseminating “fake news.” The websites of news organizations VOM, Narinjara News, Development Media Group (DMG), Mandalay In-Depth News, and Mekong News were among those blocked.

The Observatory expresses its concern over the arbitrary detention of Mr. Nay Myo Lin and the judicial harassment against Messrs. Khine Mrat Kyaw, Thein Zaw, Aung Lin Tun, Tun Khaing, and Hline Thit Zin Wai, which seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights work as journalists and the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Myanmar asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Messrs. Nay Myo Lin, Khine Mrat Kyaw, Thein Zaw, Aung Lin Tun, Tun Khaing, Hline Thit Zin Wai, and of all human rights defenders in Myanmar;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nay Myo Lin, as well as all human rights defenders in Myanmar, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Nay Myo Lin, Khine Mrat Kyaw, Thein Zaw, Aung Lin Tun, Tun Khaing, Hline Thit Zin Wai, and all human rights defenders in Myanmar, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses:

• Mr. Win Myint, President of Myanmar; Fax: +95 1 652 624
• Lt. Gen Soe Htut, Minister of Home Affairs; Fax: +95 67 412 432; Email: mohamyanmar@gmail.com
• Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Fax: +95 67 412396
• Mr. Hla Myint, Chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission; Email: mdjcwg13@gmail.com
• Tun Tun Oo, Union Attorney General; Email: ago.h.o@mptmail.net.mm
• Brig Gen Aung Win Oo, Director General, Myanmar Police Force, Ministry of Home Affairs; Fax: +95 67 412006; Email: mpfserver@gmail.com; epolice@myanmarpoliceforce.org
• HE Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Fax: +41 22 732 89 19; Email: mission@myanmargeneva.org
• Embassy of Myanmar in Brussels, Belgium; Fax: +32 2 705 50 48, Email: mebrussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Myanmar in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, April 3, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

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[1] The Arakan Army is a group demanding more autonomy for the State’s ethnic Rakhine people.

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