An independent photojournalist in Myanmar died in military custody after being arrested last week while covering protests.
Soe Naing is the first known journalist to have died in custody since the army took power in February, overthrowing the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. More than 100 journalists have been detained since then, although about half have been released.
Naing was arrested on Friday when he and a colleague were in downtown Yangon taking photos during a “silent attack” called by opponents of the military government. It was the largest nationwide protest in several months, and the streets were practically empty as people responded to the call to stay home and businesses to close for six hours.
Naing is not the first detainee to die in government custody. There is no clear total, but the other reported deaths in custody have been political activists and members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. In several cases where the bodies could be seen, they bore marks suggesting that people had been tortured, according to human rights activists.
Most journalists have been arrested, as the army-installed government has tried to stifle the free flow of information. In addition to detaining media workers, many outlets have been forced to shut down or operate underground, with their staff always at risk of arrest.
Naing and his colleague have been covering the crisis in Myanmar for months, and their work features anti-military protests and brutal repressions by security forces sometimes picked up by foreign news agencies.
After his arrest, Naing was sent to a military interrogation center in Yangon’s eastern Botahtaung Township, colleagues familiar with his case said. His family was informed Tuesday morning that he died at the 1,000-bed Defense Service General Hospital in Yangon’s Mingaladon Township, said colleagues and a family friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity why giving such information. It could make them targets for arrest.
Since the army took power, interrogation centers across Myanmar have increasingly used torture against detainees.
The Paris-based press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders tweeted that the group was “shocked to learn that freelance photojournalist Soe Naing, kidnapped by the army while covering a silent protest in Yangon on Friday, died in custody this morning. , after a violent interrogation. “
Naing is survived by his wife and a four-year-old son. The current situation of the photographer detained with him is unknown.
The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday called for the immediate release of Aung San Lin, a reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma, an online and broadcast service. He said he had been arrested on December 11, just after he had submitted a report alleging that soldiers had set fire to the houses of three supporters of Suu Kyi’s party.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism