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Myanmar must free arrested journalists and demonstrators, United States demands

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Myanmar must free arrested journalists and demonstrators, United States demands

 

On Thursday, the Biden administration increased its criticism of Myanmar’s coup, demanding that military authorities end their violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and release arrested demonstrators and journalists.

The White House described the situation as “troubling” and “concerning,” citing the arrest of an Associated Press journalist as an example. The State Department said it is collaborating with other nations to send a unified message to the military that its activities are unethical and would result in consequences.

Since the February 1 coup, the US has placed sanctions on Myanmar’s top military leaders, but pressure has increased after security forces killed as many as 38 people on Wednesday. The administration claims it is in close contact with partners and allies, as well as countries such as China, in an attempt to persuade Myanmar officials to soften their stance on the protests.

“The detention of journalists, as well as the harassment of journalists and activists, is something that the president, the secretary of state, and every member of our administration are very concerned about,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

The administration is “deeply saddened” by news of deaths in the crackdown on demonstrations, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price. “The junta’s utter contempt for their own nation, the people of Burma, is shown by this new increase of violence,” he said. “It’s inexcusable.”

He said, “We are profoundly concerned about the increasing attacks and arrests of journalists.” “We demand that the military release these individuals immediately and stop intimidating and harassing members of the media and others who have been wrongfully arrested for doing nothing more than doing their jobs, for doing nothing more than exercising their universal rights.”

Last week, Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw and several other journalists were detained while covering security forces attacking anti-coup demonstrators. They’ve been charged with breaking a public order rule, which could result in a three-year jail sentence. The Associated Press and press freedom organizations have called for Zaw’s immediate release, but the authorities have not responded.

National Press Club President Lisa Nicole Matthews, the Associated Press’s assignment manager for U.S. video, and National Press Club Journalism Institute President Angela Greiling Keane issued a statement on Thursday expressing their concern for Zaw’s safety.

The statement said, “We believe he was merely doing his job as a journalist and look forward to his swift release.”

The United States and other countries have strongly criticized the coup and the subsequent crackdown on dissent, but their statements have had little impact so far. Price said that the US was looking to exert leverage on Myanmar’s military through China, Myanmar’s most influential neighbor and friend.

“We also urged the Chinese to play a constructive role in ending the coup by using their leverage with the Burmese military,” he said. “We’ve had a variety of discussions with Chinese officials at various levels, and our message has been clear throughout: the world, every responsible proactive member of the international community, needs to use its voice, needs to work to put an end to this coup and restore Burma’s democratically elected government.”

Footage of the violent crackdown on anti-coup protesters earlier Thursday sparked outrage and demands for a stronger international response. Security forces were seen chasing down and savagely beating protesters, as well as shooting an individual at point-blank range.

The coup put an end to years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which had been under strict military rule for five decades, leading to international isolation and sanctions. In recent years, as the generals’ hold on power has loosened, the international community has eased most sanctions and poured money into the country.

 

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