INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The Society of Professional Journalists, which says it is “frustrated and fed up” with the arrests of reporters doing their job, has urged Myanmar to release Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw and five others who are Arrested while reporting protests in the Southeast Asian nation.
The country’s oldest journalists’ organization also urged U.S. law enforcement to bring charges against any journalist arrested while on the job, specifically mentioning at least four journalists due to appear in court this month after they protested last summer Black Lives Matter had been arrested.
“We urge all Americans to join us in urging officials that journalism is not a crime,” the Indianapolis-based organization said in a statement Friday.
Thein Zaw was arrested on February 27 while reporting on a protest against the military coup that overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. A video of the arrest shows him being surrounded and held in a stranglehold while being handcuffed. The AP has called for his release.
The authorities accused Thein Zaw and the other journalists of violating a public order law that could imprison them for up to three years.
“These journalists do their job like all journalists and should not be punished for it. What part of “journalism is not a crime” don’t government officials get? “SPJ National President Matthew Hall said in a statement.
The group said it was also “appalled” that American journalists continue to be charged with “public service” charges.
“We are calling on US law enforcement agencies to bring charges against any journalist arrested while on the job, and we are calling on the Biden administration to make this statement publicly in support.”
The SPJ said that although the majority of the more than 120 journalists arrested or detained while reporting protests against Black Lives Matter have been released without charge, at least four have been on trial this month on charges of disorderly behavior up to and including Interventions in official acts are due.
“Journalists at home and abroad must be able to do their jobs without threats of arrest or reprisals,” Hall said.