World Bulletin/News Desk
A journalist in Myanmar has been shot dead in military custody, local media reported Friday.
Aung Kyaw Naing was covering a recent outbreak of fighting between the army and ethnic Karen rebels near the southeastern border with Thailand when he was detained by government troops on Sept. 30. He was killed four days later, the Irrawaddy news website said, citing a report from the country's Press Council, which said it had received a military report on the death.
The military statement claimed the reporter "tried to seize a gun from a guard and run away" before being shot.
If verified, it would be the most blatant transgression of press freedom since official censorship ended in 2012.
Three other journalists have been killed in Myanmar since 1999, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The most recent was Japanese cameraman Kenji Nagai, who was shot in the head at point blank range by a soldier while covering mass pro-democracy demonstrations in 2007.
A military battalion based in the town of Kyaik Ma Yaw, Mon state, may have detained Naing to interrogate him about the whereabouts of rebels from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, known as the DKBA, the Irrawaddy reported.
The army claimed he was a “communications captain” for the rebel group's political wing, according to the statement sent to the Press Council, a semi-independent body founded in 2012 to mediate between the press and the government.
The reported killing is the latest in a series of blows to media reform in Myanmar, which in 2010 began emerging from half a century under military dictatorships that imprisoned journalists and imposed severe press restrictions.
In 2012 President Thein Sein’s new, nominally civilian government released at least 12 journalists from prison as part of a general amnesty for political detainees. But late last year the regime began jailing journalists for covering issues deemed too sensitive. There are now ten imprisoned journalists.
Last week three journalists and the two owners of the Bi Mon Te Nay journal were sentenced to two years in prison for an article that mistakenly claimed opposition politicians had formed an interim government.
In July a publisher and four reporters from the Unity Journal were given ten years’ hard labor after reporting on an alleged chemical weapons factory.
Their imprisonment was widely seen as a signal that critical reporting on the country’s powerful military would not be tolerated.
Naing’s killing “should make clear that the military never took seriously Thein Sein's media reforms,” Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
“If he was indeed killed in military custody… it would send a lethal signal to all journalists that they too could be targeted and killed for reporting from conflict zones," he added.
On Tuesday Naing’s wife, believing he was still alive, made a public plea to the military to release him.
She alleged that a police corporal said he had seen her husband in custody and that he looked as though he had been beaten.
The reporter worked for several newspapers based in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon, including The Voice and the Yangon Times.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Ekim 2014, 17:48