The New York Times. April 04, 2020

(Brent) #1

The two were later pardoned and
The governing party, the Na-
tional League for Democracy,
which is headed by the Nobel
Peace laureate Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi and won by a landslide in
2015, is heading into new elections
this year with diminished support
from many ethnic groups.
The Tatmadaw’s biggest mili-
tary campaign is against the
Arakan Army, a rebel ethnic group
that is fighting to create an inde-
pendent territory in Rakhine,
along the lines of the ancient
Arakan kingdom that was once
The Arakan Army, formed a
decade ago, says it has 7,000 sol-
diers. It has killed hundreds of
Myanmar troops and staged doz-
ens of abductions, including a dar-
ing raid in October, when rebels
dressed as soccer players am-
bushed a bus and seized 31 people.
Rakhine came to the world’s at-
tention in 2017 with the brutal eth-
nic cleansing of Rohingya Mus-

MANDALAY, Myanmar — In a
new crackdown on free speech,
the Myanmar authorities have ar-
rested a prominent editor on ter-
rorism charges for publishing an
interview with a rebel army
spokesman, and on Friday they
were seeking two more editors on
similar charges.
In recent days, the authorities
have raided journalists’ homes
and offices, interrogated report-
ers about their coverage and
blocked websites that were re-
porting on armed conflict with
ethnic groups. News sites run by
the three editors were among
those blocked under the govern-
ment order.
Journalists and human rights
activists said the government’s
actions — including the arrest on
Monday of U Nay Myo Lin, editor
in chief of Voice of Myanmar, an
independent news site based in
Mandalay — were an attempt to
reinstate authoritarian measures
like those of Myanmar’s former
military regime, at a time when
most of the world is focused on
stopping the coronavirus pan-
“During this critical time, we
believe that it is very dangerous
and irrational to detain journalists
and block access to media, which
are the eyes and ears of the peo-
ple,” said the Myanmar Press
Freedom Center, a media advoca-
cy group in Yangon, Myanmar’s
largest city.
Health experts, meanwhile,
worry that the government is in-
sufficiently focused on containing
the coronavirus. The government
has done little to prepare for the
pandemic; it has conducted just
644 tests in a country of more than
50 million people, reporting only
20 cases.
The military, known as the Tat-
madaw, is battling rebel ethnic
groups on three fronts, but it has
not proposed cease-fires during
the pandemic. Myanmar has an
elected civilian government, but
the military is independent under
the Constitution, which it drafted.
The authorities have repeat-
edly targeted journalists in recent
years. Two reporters for the
Reuters news agency were sen-
tenced to seven years in prison in
2018 after they exposed a military
massacre in the state of Rakhine.

lims carried out by the Tatmadaw,
including a campaign of murder,
rape and the burning of villages.
Since then, more than 700,000 Ro-
hingya have fled across the bor-
der into Bangladesh, where they

live in squalid refugee camps with
little chance of returning.
Meanwhile, the Arakan Army
has been waging war against the
Tatmadaw in the same part of the

On March 23, Myanmar de-
clared the Arakan Army to be a
terrorist group. The government
also ordered communications
companies to block at least 220
websites. Most were said to be
pornography sites, but the list also
included media outlets that cover
news in areas where ethnic con-
flicts have broken out, including
Myanmar’s director general of
communication, U Myo Swe, said
in an interview that media sites
had been blocked to keep them
from posting “fake news” about
the coronavirus, or news that
would contribute to instability in
the country.
“In this time of the coronavirus
pandemic, some websites are
publishing fake news about the vi-

rus and it harms the public,” he
said, without citing any examples.
He declined to comment when
asked whether the website clo-
sures were aimed at suppressing
press freedom.
The government has blocked
internet access since June in parts
of Rakhine and the state of Chin
where the Arakan Army operates,
in what amounts to one of the
longest internet shutdowns by
any government in the world.
Mr. Nay Myo Lin, the Voice of
Myanmar editor, was arrested on
Monday on terrorism charges af-
ter posting an interview with the
Arakan Army spokesman, U
Khaing Thu Kha. Mr. Nay Myo Lin
faces up to life in prison.
The next day, the police raided
the office of Narinjara, a news out-
let based in the Rakhine city of Sit-
twe, seeking to arrest its editor in
chief, U Khaing Mrat Kyaw, who
also had posted an interview with
the rebel spokesman. Mr. Khaing
was not at the office and is now
said to be in hiding.
The police seized computers
and detained three Narinjara jour-
nalists, who were released that
“We are not committing a
crime. We are doing our job,” said
U Thant Myat Khaing, a reporter
who was detained and interro-
gated. “When people are focusing
on virus news, they are arresting
journalists to shut down the infor-
Late Tuesday night, the police
raided the homes of several edi-
tors at the media outlet Yangon
Khit Thit Media, including the
home of the editor in chief, U Thar
Lon Zaung Htet, who published a
similar interview with the rebel
spokesman. Mr. Thar’s where-
abouts was unknown Friday.
“Yangon Khit Thit Media re-
ports news ethically and violates
no terrorist law,” the outlet said in
a statement after the raids. “This
situation is unacceptable and
threatens the Myanmar media.”
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia
director for Human Rights Watch,
said it was distressing to see
Myanmar roll back media free-
doms while most of the world is
preoccupied with battling the co-
“Myanmar’s military, and their
accomplices in the civilian gov-
ernment, have realized the global
Covid-19 crisis provides a golden
opportunity to take care of repres-
sive business while diplomats and
the international media are dis-
tracted,” he said.

Myanmar Cracks Down on Journalists Who Interviewed Rebel Spokesman

A police officer stood guard Tuesday at the offices of the Voice of Myanmar news site in Mandalay a day after its editor was arrested.


Nay Myo Lin, the editor in chief of Voice of Myanmar, was es-
corted by the police from his home to court in Mandalay.


Saw Nang reported from Man-
dalay, and Richard C. Paddock
from Bangkok.

Blocking websites and

raiding reporters’

homes and offices.

SYDNEY, Australia — Dozens
of people are missing and feared
dead in the Solomon Islands after
being washed from a ferry making
a dangerous journey through
heaving seas caused by Cyclone
Maritime authorities reported
that at least two dozen passengers
were aboard the ferry, the MV
Taimareho, which set out late
Thursday night, traveling from
the capital, Honiara, to a port in
Malaita Province.
The crossing through Iron Bot-
tom Bay in the South Pacific na-
tion is usually calm, with islands
protecting much of the route, but
maritime authorities had warned
of dangerous conditions when the
ferry departed.
Officials said the surging seas
appeared to throw people over-
board between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
On Friday morning, officials
sent out a patrol boat to search for
the passengers, but rescue efforts
were hindered by whipping rain,
heavy winds, large waves — and
the coronavirus crisis.
Though there are no confirmed
cases in the Solomons, a small na-
tion of 611,000 people that was the
site of some of World War II’s
most decisive battles, the coun-
try’s one rescue helicopter could
not fly because a pilot was in quar-
Australia has donated about
$60,000 in emergency funds to the
Solomon Islands to assist with its
response to the cyclone, a Catego-
ry 1 storm that caused heavy
flooding while damaging build-
ings and toppling trees.
The Australian Bureau of Me-
teorology said the storm was ex-
pected to continue moving slowly
toward the southeast.
The storm was due to hit Va-
nuatu over the weekend or early
next week.

Cyclone Whips

Ferry Traveling

Near Solomons



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