Myanmar military bans satellite TV, charges Japanese journalist

Generals who seized power in coup three months ago seek to further isolate country amid continuing opposition to their rule.

Protests continue in Myanmar despite the military's brutal crackdown and attempts to throttle the flow of information [File: Dawei Watch via AFP]

Myanmar’s military-controlled media has announced a ban on satellite television dishes, saying outside broadcasts threaten national security, as the generals who seized power in a coup on February 1 charged a Japanese journalist with spreading false news.

“Satellite television is no longer legal. Whoever violates the television and video law, especially people using satellite dishes, shall be punished with one year imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 kyat ($320),” MRTV state television said on Tuesday.

“Illegal media outlets are broadcasting news that undermines national security, the rule of law and public order, and encouraging those who commit treason.”

The generals, led by army chief Min Aung Hlaing, arrested elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her government on February 1 as they seized power, ending Myanmar’s sluggish progress towards democracy.

The country has been in turmoil ever since, with more than 760 people killed as security forces struggle to quash near-daily demonstrations against their rule.

They have cut off mobile internet access, forced independent media to close and arrested reporters. At least 50 are currently in detention.

Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi, who was arrested for a second time last month, was charged on Monday.

Kitazumi is the first foreign journalist to be charged since the coup. A Polish photographer arrested while covering a protest in March was freed and deported after nearly two weeks in custody.

Japan, for years a top aid donor to Myanmar, has been pressing for Kitazumi’s release.

“Naturally, we will continue to do our utmost for the early release of the Japanese national being held,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told Japanese journalists during a trip to Britain, according to national broadcaster NHK.

Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi escorted into a Yangon police station when he was first arrested in February. He has been charged with spreading fake news [File: AP Photo]

Pro-democracy rallies have continued despite the military’s efforts to stamp out opposition.

On Tuesday, protesters gathered in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city, with education staff calling for a boycott of schools and universities when they reopen in June, the Myanmar Now news agency reported.

Local media reported that five people were killed by at least one parcel bomb on Tuesday, including an overthrown legislator and three police officers who had joined the civil disobedience movement against military rule.

Meanwhile, the Chinland Defence Force, a newly formed militia in Chin state bordering India, said on its Facebook page on Tuesday that its forces had killed at least four Myanmar army soldiers and wounded 10 in a clash overnight.

The Myanmar army did not comment on the claim.

Villagers had found the beheaded body of a military appointed local administrator in the northwestern Sagaing region, independent broadcaster DVB reported, a day after another local official was stabbed to death in the biggest city, Yangon.

The Reuters news agency was unable to reach local police for comment.

The military has defended its power grab, alleging fraud in the November election, which was won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party in a landslide, and condemned protesters as rioters and terrorists.

Source: News Agencies