Biden administration “deeply concerned” about targeting of journalists in Myanmar as numerous arrests are made

The Biden administration is “deeply concerned” about the targeting of journalists in Myanmar.

“We are deeply concerned about the increasing attacks on and arrests of journalists,” said Ned Price, the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, during a Wednesday press briefing.

His statement comes in response to the arrests and charges of an Associated Press journalist and five other journalists in Myanmar over the past week.

Myanmar authorities are reportedly charging the six journalists with violating a public order law that could result in up to three years of imprisonment.

“We call on the military to immediately release these individuals, and to cease intimidation and harassment of the media and others unjustly detained merely for doing their jobs, for exercising their universal rights,” Price continued.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed Thursday that “The detainment of journalists, the targeting of journalists and dissidents is certainly something that is of great concern to the President, to the Secretary of State and to every member of our administration.”

The National Press Club has called on the Myanmar government to release AP journalist Thein Zaw immediately, asserting that he was “simply doing his job as a journalist.”

Video footage from February 27th shows Zaw taking photographs of protestors being chased by police when he is surrounded by at least seven policemen, who placed him in a chokehold and then handcuffs.

According to a lawyer for Thein Zaw, the six journalists are being charged under a law that punishes anyone who causes fear among the public, knowingly spreads false news, or agitates for a criminal offense against a government employee.

“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution,” says Ian Phillips, Vice President at Associated Press.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Thursday that more than 1,700 people have been arbitrarily detained since the February 1 coup, including 29 journalists in recent days.

These arrests all came during the “vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters” by Myanmar security forces. These crackdowns have gotten increasingly violent as protests continue in response to the military’s forcible seizure of the elective government. Wednesday marked the deadliest day since the start of the protests, leaving at least 38 dead across the nation.

Psaki said, “the situation on the ground in Burma is troubling. We’ve obviously been working close with our partners in the region. We’ve taken sanction steps, as you know, to send a clear message that it’s unacceptable.”

Despite the continued increase in violence and deaths, protestors took to the streets again Thursday.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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