Myanmar military junta’s crackdown against the protest movement has widened as it started arresting members of the media covering the demonstrations against the army coup.
An Associated Press journalist, Thein Zaw, 32, was detained and taken into custody with a number of others shortly after police charged at a crowd of protesters gathered at the Hledan Centre intersection in Yangon on Saturday morning.
He remained detained on Sunday and is believed to be in Insein Prison, one of the most notorious jails in South-East Asia, known for housing political prisoners in brutal conditions.
His employer, the Associated Press have called for his immediate release and decried his detention.
“The Associated Press calls for the immediate release of AP journalist Thein Zaw, who was detained in Myanmar while doing his job,” Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news, said.
“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution. AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Myanmar also demanded Zaw’s immediate release.
“The FCCM calls for immediate and unconditional release of TheinZaw and other detained journalists, and urges all relevant authorities to ensure the safety and security of the journalists who are performing their professional duties covering the on-going protests in the country,” it said.
Police have cracked down on protesters in recent days. 18 people were killed and more than 1,000 more injured on Sunday after police opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Yangon, according to the UN Human Rights Office.
It was the deadliest day since protests against the military coup began.
The military declared a state of emergency and removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government from power on February 01.
They then tried to effectively ban peaceful public protests in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s two biggest cities.
Protests against the coup have prevailed, in spite of intense police pressure. 1,132 people have been confirmed arrested, charged or sentenced since they began, including Zaw.
Meanwhile, the US, Canada and the UK have all imposed sanctions on the military leaders of the coup. (Source: The Independent)