BANGKOK (AP) — An Associated Press journalist has been detained by police while covering protests against the military coup in Myanmar.
The journalist, Thein Zaw, 32, was taken into custody with a number of others on Saturday morning in Yangon, the country’s largest city.
The arrest happened as police charged toward protesters gathered at the Hledan Center intersection, which has become a meeting point for demonstrators who then continue protesting elsewhere in the city.
He remained detained Sunday and was believed to be in Yangon’s infamous Insein Prison.
“The Associated Press calls for the immediate release of AP journalist Thein Zaw, who was detained in Myanmar while doing his job,” said Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news. “Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution. AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Myanmar also condemned the arrest.
“The FCCM calls for immediate and unconditional release of Thein Zaw and other detained journalists, and urges all relevant authorities to ensure the safety and security of the journalists who are performing their professional duties covering the ongoing protests in the country,” it said.
Authorities have dramatically intensified their crackdown on protesters in recent days.
Security forces carried out further sweeping arrests Sunday and opened fire on protesters in the deadliest day since the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The U.N. Human Rights Office said it had “credible information” that at least 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded.
The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but the army blocked Parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of her government.
In December 2017, two journalists working for the Reuters news agency were arrested while working on a story about Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. They were accused of illegally possessing official documents, although they argued that they were framed because of official opposition to their reporting.
Although their case attracted international attention, they were convicted the following year and were sentenced to seven years behind bars. They were freed in 2019 in a mass presidential pardon.