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Call for thorough investigation into Burmese publisher's murder

Burma's military parade to mark the 72nd Armed Forces Day in the capital Naypyitaw, 27 March 2017
Burma's military parade to mark the 72nd Armed Forces Day in the capital Naypyitaw, 27 March 2017

REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 19 April 2017.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is shocked to learn that news weekly publisher Wai Yan Heinn was found stabbed to death in Rangoon on 16 April 2017, and urges the Burmese authorities to conduct a swift investigation that considers the possibility that he was killed in connection with his journalism.

Alerted by neighbours, Wai Yan Heinn's parents found his body under a piece of cloth in the office of his weekly, The Iron Rose, in the Rangoon district of Pazundaung. The police said he was stabbed 15 times and that the murder took place several days before the body was discovered. They are currently trying to determine exactly when.

The Iron Rose criticized the military and politicians. Recent cover stories were critical of retired generals who had been in the former military government and their businessmen allies. Aged 27, Wai Yan Heinn also reported for The Sun Rays newspaper.

"We offer our condolences to Wai Yan Heinn's family and colleagues, and we urge the authorities to allocate enough resources to the investigation so that it can be carried out quickly and thoroughly, and does not ignore the possible links to the victim's work as a journalist," said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk. "The family of Soe Moe Tun, a journalist murdered more than four months ago, is still awaiting significant progress in that investigation, so any attempt to stint on the resources assigned to this latest investigation would send a very negative message to journalists and would foster an unacceptable climate of impunity."

RSF has repeatedly expressed concern in recent months about violence against journalists in Burma and the failure to punish the violence, especially as Burma is a country where democracy and freedom of expression are still fragile concepts. Last December, RSF reported that human rights defenders and civil society groups were voicing concern about the fate of journalists in Burma following the murder of Soe Moe Tun, a newspaper reporter who had covered a controversial mining project and illegal logging in the northwest of the country. He was the second journalist to be killed in connection with their work since the end of military rule in 2011. The first was Aung Kyaw Naing, a freelancer also known as Par Gyi, who was shot dead while in military custody in October 2014.

Concern about the growing threats to journalists was also fuelled by the bombing of the home of Root Investigative Agency journalist Min Min in March 2016.

Burma is still in the bottom quarter of RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index (ranked 143rd out of 180 countries).

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