VOA contributor Sithu Aung Myint was arrested on August 15, 2021, on charges of incitement and defaming the armed forces and state. On October 6, 2022, he was sentenced to three years in prison for hard labor.
The verdict was one of three cases filed against Myint in three different townships in Yangon. A lawyer representing the journalist told VOA Burmese she will appeal the October 6 verdict at a higher court.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the country’s military-run media said that Sithu Aung Myint was arrested over articles he posted to social media that were critical of the junta and that allegedly incited people to back the opposition and take part in the unrest. A spokesperson for the Myanmar military has previously told VOA that the junta does not arrest journalists for their work.
Sithu Aung Myint, who began working for VOA in 2014, is well-known in Myanmar for his reporting on politics, business, and social issues. His last article for VOA focused on the coronavirus vaccine, was published on August 9, 2021, just a few days before his arrest.
Following the sentencing, VOA issued a statement. “The government of Myanmar must stop the indiscriminate arrest and detention of journalists and the hopeless legal proceedings that follow,” acting VOA Director Yolanda Lopez said. “The people of Myanmar deserve to live in a society that embraces accurate and objective news.”
The February 2021 coup d’état by the military junta brought about a stark decline in the journalistic environment in the country. Myanmar’s press freedom ranking is now among the worst in the world, at 176 out of 180 countries according to Reporters Without Borders.