A journalist from Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group who was reporting on illegal logging and wood smuggling in the northwestern part of the country was found dead on Tuesday on the side of a highway in the town of Monywa, a police official said.
Soe Moe Tun, 35, the news organization’s reporter in the town of Monywa in the country’s Sagaing region, was found with injuries that appeared to indicate he had been beaten, police said.
“The injuries are on his face and head,” said Thein Swe Myint, commander of the Monywa police station.
“We have already begun our investigations in the area,” he said. “We opened the case as a murder under section 302 [of the criminal code],” which pertains to crimes punishable by death.
Though police believe Soe Moe Tun was murdered, they have not identified a suspect or a motive, the Myanmar Times reported.
Soe Moe Tun had worked as a reporter in Monywa since January 2015, reporting news about the town and its surrounding areas, according to a statement issued by Eleven Media Group.
“Eleven Media Group is doing necessary work concerning the death of Soe Moe Tun and [has] urged the respective police station to investigate the case as quickly as possible,” the statement said.
His death marks the fifth killing of a journalist in Myanmar since 1999.
Threats and lawsuits
The Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN), a nationwide professional group, issued a statement expressing its condolences to Soe Moe Tun’s family and urging authorities to investigate his death as a murder.
The MJN also noted that Tin Zaw Oo, a journalist based on Thabeikkyin in central Myanmar’s Mandalay region, had been threatened by illegal logging traders within the last two months and had to move to another town with his family.
Despite the lifting of restrictions on Myanmar’s media in 2012 under former president Thein Sein, journalists still receive threats and can be subject to lawsuits for writing about controversial people or illegal activities.
On Nov. 30, a Myanmar court denied bail for Than Htut Aung, chief executive officer of Eleven Media Group, and Wai Phyo, chief editor of the Daily Eleven newspaper, who had been arrested on defamation charges because of controversial article in the country’s telecommunication’s law.
They were sued for writing and publishing an editorial that claimed that Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Yangon, wore a luxury watch worth an estimated U.S. $100,000, given to him by an unnamed drug tycoon.
The tycoon, who had recently been released from jail, had been awarded a lucrative tender to build a city transit project.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.