Myanmar army drops charges against 3 journalists arrested in June


Journalists Aye Nai (L) and Lawi Weng (C) and Pyae Phone Aung (front R) leave the courthouse after appearing for a hearing in Hsipaw in Shan State on July 28, 2017. Photo: AFP

The Myanmar army withdrew charges against three journalists who were arrested in June for traveling to a rebel-controlled region, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said Friday.

The military also dropped charges against another three people who had guided the reporters, Lawi Weng of The Irrawaddy daily and Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Naing of the Democratic Voice of Burma, to reach the rebel area.

"We believe they will be •released today," AAPP said on Twitter.

The six were arrested on June 26 at a checkpoint on a road in Payargyi, in the northeastern state of Shan, near an area controlled by the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), a rebel group fighting the army for greater autonomy and who are yet to sign a ceasefire agreement with the government.

The reporters had travelled to the guerrilla-controlled territory to cover the destruction of an opium plantation on World Drug Day.

Media and human rights organizations have criticized an ongoing crackdown on the media under the current democratic government, led by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since the arrival in power of Suu Kyi's party in 2016, at least 71 people, including several journalists, have been arrested over charges of defamation on social media.

In a recent report, human rights organization Amnesty International accused the Myanmar army of human rights abuses against the civilian population in the restive states of Shan and Kachin, including torture, extrajudicial killings, indiscriminate bombing of villages and restrictions on humanitarian aid.

The report also accused the TNLA rebels of abuses against civilians, including forced recruitment and tax collection.

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