A FREELANCE journalist in Burma who had been reported missing since Sept. 30 had died while in the custody of the Burmese Army.

The Army’s story: A suspected rebel and was shot while trying to grab a soldier’s weapon.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres or RSF) on Thursday said that journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, also known by the pseudonym Par Gyi, “had been arrested while reporting on growing tensions between the regular Burmese army and the Democratic Buddhist Karen Army in southern Mon state.”

According to RSF, the army had suspected Aung Kyaw Naing of being a member of the rebel secessionist movement in Karen state, which borders Mon.

“False information had been circulating online for several days, including photos of members of the DBKA who falsely identified the journalist as an active member of the armed group,” it added.

For journalists, RSF said “the killing recalls the rule of the authoritarian military junta that was officially dissolved in 2011.”

“This murder is a tragic demonstration of the government’s step backwards over the past year,” said Benjamin Isma├»l, head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “With the International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists approaching, the government must take all measures to shed light on this case.”

Lucie Morillon, RSF programme director, meanwhile, raised the issue of accountability. “We remind the Burmese government of the importance of fighting impunity,” Morillon said.

“Last year, we brought to the attention of President Thein Sein and Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut the need to identify those responsible for army crimes against Burmese and foreign journalists under the junta. That task is vital for changing the mentality of the security forces and promoting a sense of responsibility among them.”

Aung Kyaw Naing disappeared on September 30. His wife alerted the media during the days that followed but it was not until October 25 that the Burmese Army informed the Press Council that the journalist had been killed three weeks earlier and had already been buried, RSF reported.

“The false allegations that Aung Kyaw Naing was a member of the Karen army circulated after the disclosure to the Press Council. He regularly covered ethnic tensions in the country’s south, near the border with Thailand. He worked for several publications, including the Yangon Times, Eleven Media Group, and The Voice,” RSF said.

Burma ranks 145th of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2014 world press freedom index.

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