Myanmar journalists held, assaulted by mining company over news coverage

Bangkok, The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the harassment, detention, and assault of two journalists in Myanmar on February 26 and called on the country’s authorities to thoroughly investigate the case and hold those responsible to account.

Ma Mon Mon Pan and Ah Kyaw, reporters with the Burmese-language Myitkyina Journal newspaper, were detained and assaulted by representatives of the Tha Khin Sit Mining Company at the company’s Waingmaw township compound in Kachin state, according to local news reports and Brang Mai, the chief executive officer of the Myitkyina Journal, who communicated with CPJ by email.

“We strongly condemn the attack on Myanmar reporters Ma Mon Mon Pan and Ah Kyaw,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “A private company detaining and harassing reporters over their coverage is totally unacceptable. Authorities should identify and prosecute those responsible for this egregious assault.”

On February 26, mining company representatives visited the Journal’s office and asked to speak with Ma Mon Mon Pan, according to Brang Mai and a report by local English-language newspaper Myanmar Times. Ma Mon Mon Pan had recently covered local residents accusing Tha Khin Sit Mining of land grabs and causing environmental damage at one of its banana plantations, according to Yangon-based news outlet The Irrawaddy. Ah Kyaw accompanied her when she left with the representatives, Brang Mai said.

The mining company’s representatives brought the reporters to the company’s compound, where they slapped Ma Mon Mon Pan with a copy of the Myitkyina Journal and forced Ah Kyaw to do 300 sit-ups, after which he could not walk, according to Brang Mai and The Irrawaddy.

Myanmar Times quoted an unnamed Tha Khin Sit Mining spokesperson saying that the reporters wrote “false news” and that the story about the company was inaccurate.

CPJ called Tha Khin Sit Mining for comment but was not put through to a company representative.

The reporters were released after Myitkyina Journal representatives contacted Waingmaw township police, who sent officers to surround the company’s compound, The Irrawaddy reported and Brang Mai confirmed to CPJ.

Brang Mai told CPJ that his publication plans to pursue legal action against the company, though he did not specify under which law. Local news reports said that the two journalists had filed a complaint against the mining company for illegally detaining them.

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists

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