Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist

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Thein Zaw family

This undated family photo provided on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 shows Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw in Yangon, Myanmar. Authorities in Myanmar charged Thein Zaw and five other members of the media with violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned for up to three years. The six were arrested while covering protests against the Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. (Thein Zaw family via AP)

YANGON – Authorities in Myanmar have charged Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw and five other members of the media with violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned for up to three years, a lawyer said Tuesday.

The six were arrested while covering protests against the Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The group includes journalists for Myanmar Now, Myanmar Photo Agency, 7Day News, Zee Kwet online news and a freelancer.

Lawyer Tin Zar Oo, who represents Thein Zaw, said the six have been charged under a law that punishes anyone who causes fear among the public, knowingly spreads false news, or agitates directly or indirectly for a criminal offense against a government employee.

The law was amended by the junta last month to broaden its scope and increase the maximum prison term from two years.

AP’s Thein Zaw, 32, was taken into custody on Saturday morning in Yangon, the country’s largest city. He is reported to be held in Insein Prison in northern Yangon, notorious for housing political prisoners under previous military regimes.

According to the lawyer, Thein Zaw was remanded into custody by a court and can be held until March 12 without another hearing or further action.

The AP has called for his immediate release.

“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution," Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news, said after the arrest. "AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”