Myanmar military arrests more journalists

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FILE PHOTO: Soldiers stand next to military vehicles as people gather to protest against the military coup, in Yangon
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(Reuters) -Myanmar's military government has arrested two more local journalists, army-owned television reported on Saturday, the latest among dozens of detentions in a sweeping crackdown on the media since a Feb. 1 coup.

Sithu Aung Myint, a columnist for news site Frontier Myanmar and commentator with Voice of America radio, and Htet Htet Khine, a freelance producer for BBC Media Action, were arrested on Aug. 15, Myawaddy TV reported.

Sithu Aung Myint was charged with sedition and spreading false information that Myawaddy said was critical of the junta and had urged people to join strikes and back outlawed opposition groups.

Htet Htet Khine was accused of harbouring Sithu Aung Myint, a criminal suspect, and working for and supporting a shadow National Unity Government.

BBC Media Action said in a statement it was concerned about Htet Htet Khine's safety and the charges against her, and was closely monitoring the situation.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the pair were being held incommunicado.

"We strongly condemn the arbitrary conditions of their detention, which reflect the brutality with which the military junta treats journalists," said its Asia-Pacific desk head Daniel Bastard.

Myanmar remains fraught with instability and opposition to army rule, under which more than 1,000 people have been killed, according to an activist group that has tracked killings https://reut.rs/3sze8TG by security forces.

The military, which has revoked the licenses of many news outlets, says it respects the role of media but will not allow news reporting it deems false or likely to create public unrest.

A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists https://bit.ly/3glb0WN last month said Myanmar's rulers had effectively criminalised independent journalism.

Human Rights Watch late last month said the army government had arrested 98 journalists since the coup and should stop prosecuting media staff https://bit.ly/2W6oezW. Of those arrested, 46 remained in custody as of the end of July.

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Mike Harrison and William Mallard)

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