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Burma: Myitkyina News Journal journalists assaulted over critical banana plantation stories

A banana plant with the hills around Mt. Zwegabin in the distance, Kayin State, Burma, 21 December 2017
A banana plant with the hills around Mt. Zwegabin in the distance, Kayin State, Burma, 21 December 2017

Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images

This statement was originally published on on 27 February 2019.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) echoes the calls of the Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN) and the Myanmar Press Council to investigate a mining company based in Waingmaw, Kachin that allegedly detained and assaulted local journalists over the latter's reports on the environmental and social impact of the firm's banana plantation operations.

According to a report by Myanmar Times, U Zaw Khun, the deputy chief executive officer of the independent weekly Myitkyina News Journal, filed a complaint Wednesday, 27 February 2019, with the Waingmaw township police station against the officials of Tha Khin Sit Mining and Import and Export Company.

"Authorities should not condone violence and [should] guarantee journalist safety," said SEAPA executive director Tess Bacalla.

She added: "Assaults against the press are deplorable and the company should be held accountable for such acts if the report is true."

"The journalists are merely doing their work. If the company finds their reports objectionable, there are available mechanisms to address their grievances."

In an interview with The Irrawaddy, newspaper publisher and editor-in-chief Seng Mai shared that reporters Ma Mun Mun Pan and Ko Ahje were forcibly taken by six unidentified people from their office to the mining company's compound, held in separate rooms for more than two hours, and were verbally threatened and physically attacked.

News reports indicates that Ma Mun Mun Pan was dragged, pushed, and pulled until the buttons of her shirt came off. She was also slapped in the face with a printed copy of her publication before her phone was confiscated.

Meanwhile, Ko Ahje was ordered to do 100,000 sit-ups until their article was taken down from the site. He could barely walk by the time he did 300 of the punitive act.

The story in question, Two Chinese companies start tissue-culture banana plantation in Mandaung village tract, was published on 25 February 2019.

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