BBC ‘extremely concerned’ by suspected military abduction of Myanmar reporter

The country’s military has detained hundreds of activists and dozens of journalists since deposing the democratically elected government

Protestors killed in Myanmar military crackdown

The BBC says one of its reporters has been “taken away” by unidentified men in the capital of Myanmar and it is doing everything it can to confirm his safety.

The broadcaster said it was “extremely concerned” for BBC Burmese reporter Aung Thura, who was abducted in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday at around noon.

According to Myanmar Now, Aung Thura was arrested from outside the Dekkhina district court where he had gone to report on a hearing for National League for Democracy (NLD) patron Win Htein. A former correspondent of Mizzima News, Than Htike Aung, who was with him at that time, was also arrested.

The BBC said it takes the “safety of all its staff in Myanmar very seriously and we are doing everything we can to find Aung Thura”.

“We call on the authorities to help locate him and confirm that he is safe. Aung Thura is an accredited BBC journalist with many years of reporting experience covering events in [Naypyidaw],” it said.

Since 1 February, when Myanmar’s military deposed the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD, dozens of journalists have been detained over their reporting of the coup.

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The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Myanmar-based organisation, said on Thursday that it was seeing media freedom eroded by the military.

“The illegitimate military regime revoked the media licences of five local outlets, raided media offices, and arrested and detained some journalists. All local private media outlets in the country suspended yesterday due to the various forms of repression, including lawsuits,” it said.

AAPP said only the military’s propaganda TV stations and newspapers continued to operate as they kept to the new junta’s narrative, while adding that such “deliberate suppression cuts off information among the people” of Myanmar and prevents coverage of atrocities reaching the international community.

Users on social media, including many human-rights activists, have also highlighted instances of the internet being cut off in certain areas to stop people from posting pictures of the violence by Myanmar’s security forces.

The British embassy in Myanmar also issued a statement on Friday, saying it shares the BBC’s concerns about the missing journalist. “We echo the call for the authorities to help confirm his location and that he is safe,” the embassy tweeted.

Meanwhile, lethal action by Myanmar’s military against innocent civilians and pro-democracy protesters continued, as Myanmar Now reported that the security forces opened fire during a confrontation in the central town of Aungban on Friday, killing eight people.

The number of people killed in the anti-coup protests since 1 February has reportedly surpassed 220.

To end the escalating crisis, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo on Friday called for a halt to the bloodshed and asked for a high-level meeting of Southeast Asian leaders.

He said he would immediately call Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and press him for an urgent meeting.

“Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims. The safety and welfare of the people must be the top priority. Indonesia also urges dialogue, that reconciliation is carried out immediately to restore democracy, to restore peace and to restore stability in Myanmar,” the president said in a virtual address.

A joint statement by a group of international ambassadors to Myanmar called the ongoing violence against unarmed civilian protesters “immoral and indefensible”.

It was signed by EU member states with a presence in Myanmar, such as Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, as well as the UK and US.

They asked Myanmar’s military to cease all violence, release all detainees, lift martial law and the state-wide emergency, remove telecoms restrictions and restore the democratically elected government.

The ambassadors in the statement said that they “support the right of the people of Myanmar to protest peacefully and support their right to freely access information”. “Internet blackouts and the suppression of the media will not hide the military’s abhorrent actions,” the statement said.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Myanmar’s military “first underestimated the people of the country and were surprised by their electoral repudiation”.

“They seem now to be underestimating the people again and are surprised by the persistent resistance to the coup and belief in democracy,” tweeted Roth.

Additional reporting by agencies

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