BANGKOK — A military-run court in Myanmar on Thursday sentenced a freelance journalist associated with international broadcaster BBC to three years in prison with hard labor after being found guilty of incitement, a judicial official said.
Htet Htet Khine, who presented a show called “Khan Sar Kyi” – “Feel It” – for BBC Media Action, still faces an additional charge of unlawful association under which she could receive up to three years in prison. additional jail. The documentary program, which she worked on from 2016 to 2020, showed people’s problems across the country caused by years of unrest and conflict.
Since seizing power in February last year by toppling the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, the military government has severely cracked down on media freedom. It forced at least 11 media outlets to close and arrested around 142 journalists, 57 of whom remain in detention awaiting charge or trial.
Some of the closed media continued to operate without a license, publishing online as their staff members dodged arrest.
Htet Htet Khine was arrested in August 2021 with Sithu Aung Myint, a columnist who provided commentary for online magazine Frontier Myanmar and broadcaster Voice of America, at an apartment in the country’s largest city, Yangon, where they were hiding.
Htet Htet Khine was first accused of being a volunteer editor for Federal FM Radio, an underground broadcaster of the National Unity Government, a shadow civilian administration created to oppose the military coup. The ruling military council declared the group a terrorist organization.
State media reported six days after her arrest that she was charged with inciting the spread of false news that caused the public to hate the government and the military, which carries a sentence of up to three years jail, and illegal association for contacting illegal people. organizations punishable by three years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Hearings on the charges against her took place in a courthouse at the notorious Insein prison in Yangon, where she is being held. Hearings are closed to the media and the public.
A judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to release information on court cases said Htet Htet Khine was found guilty on Thursday of trying to destabilize the state by participating in mass demonstrations against the military regime. Htet Htet Khine has denied all charges against her.
The case against her did not relate to her journalism activities, the official said, adding that she had not decided whether to appeal. His attorneys will file final argument next week against the other charge under the Unlawful Associations Act.
Sithu Aung Myint, who was arrested along with Htet Htet Khine, faces two charges of incitement and one of sedition, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.