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US raises concerns over Myanmar ‘reporter’ death

October 29, 2014

The United States Wednesday expressed “serious concern” after the Myanmar army shot dead a man in its custody near the country’s volatile eastern border who activists say was a reporter.

Aung Naing was gunned down as he tried to flee detention in Kyaikmaraw town in southeastern Mon state on October 4, according to a military statement released last week.

The document said he was suspected of being part of an armed group but activists say he was a freelance journalist covering unrest in the region, where fighting between government troops and rebels has flared in recent weeks.

On Wednesday the US embassy in Yangon said it had raised “serious concern” with the Myanmar government over the killing.

“We call on the government to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death, and to hold the perpetrators accountable,” said a US official in a statement.

Aung Naing’s wife was due to hold a press conference later Wednesday.

Last week the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Aung Naing was thought to have worked for several local news titles, but the interim Myanmar Press Council was unable to confirm his status as a reporter.

Reporters were regularly detained under the former junta-ruled state, which meted out long jail sentences to journalists while choking off information with some of the world’s most draconian censorship rules.

Reforms implemented by the current regime, including freeing most political prisoners and lifting pre-publication press scrutiny, have been lauded by the international community as the country opens up.

But the jailing of several journalists this year have raised fears that Myanmar could be backsliding on media freedoms.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.