Burmese journalist Thuzar, who goes by a single name, was sentenced to two years in prison by Yangon’s Insein prison court on Tuesday, according to a lawyer close to the case, who declined to be named for security reasons.
She was charged with “incitement to make unrest” under Section 505 (a) of the Penal Code, which has been against those who question the legitimacy of the coup or criticize the junta.
“She will be released soon because she has the right to take away the days she was held in custody,” the lawyer told RFA Burmese.
Thuzar was arrested near East Dagon township on Sept. 29, 2021 and has been held in Insein prison since then.
It was reported that she would be set free last Thursday as part of the junta’s National Day amnesty of 5,774 prisoners, prompting Thuzar’s husband, retired journalist Ye Ko, to wait in front of the prison all day.
Her mother, who was not allowed to be in court on Tuesday, told RFA she had been told Thuzar remained unbroken by the sentence.
“I was saddened, but what can I do? I was expecting her release with the amnesty but she did not come out. She is fine and in good health. She was not shocked by the court verdict as she is mentally strong.”
Thuzar is a veteran journalist who worked for local and foreign news agencies, including RFA Burmese, for almost 14 years. She was working as a freelance journalist when she was arrested last year. She also helped run the Myanmar Woman’s Journalist Society.
According to data compiled by RFA, 143 journalists were arrested across the country between the Feb. 1, 2021 coup and Nov. 17 this year. Of that number 95 journalists were released including Japanese documentary maker Toru Kubota, who was freed from a 10-year sentence as part of last week’s amnesty. Photojournalist Soe Naing died days after being tortured during interrogation and there are still 47 journalists in prison.
As well as arresting journalists the junta has silenced media organizations, banning 14 news agencies, four publishing houses and two printing presses since the coup.
Last month local reporters from BBC Burmese and The Irrawaddy online news site went into hiding after the junta threatened to sue their organizations for saying troops killed at least three civilians near a Buddhist pagoda in Mon state on Oct. 12. The Irrawaddy was banned by the junta later in the month for violating national security laws, according to state media.
The crackdown on journalists and their companies prompted global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders to drop Myanmar to 175th out of 180 countries in its 2022 World Press Freedom Index from 140th last year.