After Myanmar declared the rebel Arakan Army as a terrorist organisation, a Mandalay court has now reportedly charged a journalist under counter-terrorism law for interviewing a top representative of the group in the aftermath of the decision. Nay Myo Lin, editor-in-chief of Voice of Myanmar, published the interview which led to his detention and could face a life-term in prison after being charged under the sections of Terrorism Act.
Myanmar has also blocked the news website along with other outlets that cover the conflict in the Rakhine State. Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, called the decision “outrageous and unacceptable” violation of media freedom in Myanmar. He called upon the government to drop the “ridiculous charges” on Nay Myo Lin and urged to allow journalists to do their jobs in Rakhine without interference.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which publishes the World Press Freedom Index every year, has called for the immediate withdrawal of the “utterly disproportionate” terrorism charges against the editor for publishing the interview of the spokesperson of the rebel group. In June 2019, RSF published a report on the surge in judicial harassment of journalists by military and police in Myanmar. Myanmar is currently ranked 138 out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
The Arakan Army, currently led by Commander in chief Twan Myat Naing, was established in 2009 by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists with an objective to seek greater autonomy from the central government. The rebel group wants self-determination for multi-ethnic Arakanese population and claims that it has no links with Rohingya rebel group.
Recently, an official from State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party died two weeks after being detained by rebels in Myanmar’s Rakhine region. The Arakan Army, in a statement, said that some detainees, including NLD chairman from Buthidaung, died while some got injured in the explosion, allegedly executed by Myanmar’s army.
(Image credit: AP)