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Authorities in Rangoon and Magwe divisions have detained the Chief Executive Officer and a local reporter from news journal Unity Weekly. The arrests came as a result of a report published in the journal last month alleging the existence of a ‘secret chemical weapon factory’ in Magwe’s Pauk Township.
Unity Weekly CEO Tint San was arrested on Saturday morning by police officials who came to the Journal’s office without a warrant, according to staff.
The night before his arrest, Tint San told DVB that the reporter Lu Maw Naing had been arrested by police in connection with the report titled; ‘Secret Chemical Weapon [built] by the Former Senior-General, Chinese Technicians and the Current [Burmese Military] Commander in Chief’, which featured on the front page of the 25 January issue.
“Our reporter Lu Maw Naing has been picked up by Pauk Township Police’s superintendent for questioning over the report on the chemical plant in Pauk,” said Tint San, adding that government authorities across the country have seized copies of the journal.
“They also came to our office and took away copies of the issue.”
Lwin Lwin, Lu Maw Naing’s wife, told DVB on Saturday her husband had been charged for leaking government secrets, which carries severe penalties and can possibly result in a death sentence.
She also said Lu Maw Naing had been transferred from the police station, his whereabouts still unknown.
Zaw Thet Htwe of the Interim Myanmar Press Council condemned the arrests, suggesting they were a sign of still-looming threats to media freedom.
“This clearly showed that there is still no guarantee for press freedom in the country, and that media workers are constantly under threat,” said Zaw Thet Htwe.
“Arresting reporters like this is an appalling sight for the media,” he said. “According to legal procedures, the reporter should be summoned to a court to hear charges and has a right to defend himself. But taking him out of sight like this without even notifying the family of his whereabouts is clearly an indirect threat to the press and news reporters.”