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Journalists jailed but not silenced

Journalists Nathan Maung and Okke Ornstein share their experiences being detained, in the second episode of JNI's 'Raided. Detained. Cancelled.'

Soldiers raided Kamayut Media’s offices in Yangon on a Tuesday afternoon in March, about a month after the Burmese military seized power in a coup.

They confiscated everything but the furniture and arrested Kamayut Media’s editor-in-chief Nathan Maung and producer Han Thar Nyein.

The journalists were sent to Myanmar’s largest jail, Insein Prison, which, from the air, resembles a giant bicycle wheel.

Maung said he was isolated, beaten and tortured.

“The entire first three days I was asked to sit on a chair without moving,” he said.

“I was thinking that at any minute I could be killed.”

Maung was released from prison after three months and deported when military guards realised he was a US citizen.

His colleague Han Thar Nyein is still in jail — more than 250 days after his arrest.

He is not alone. More than 270 journalists are currently imprisoned around the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Maung was detained at Insein jail in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest prison. Image: Thierry Falise/LightRocket/Getty Images

‘I wouldn’t shut up’

Dutch journalist Okke Ornstein said his detention in Panama in 2016, over a story he wrote alleging government corruption and fraud, came as a surprise.

“Nobody thought they would go so far as to arrest someone and put them in jail,” he said.

Ornstein ran a news website called Bananama Republic and has worked with Al Jazeera and Dutch public broadcaster NTR.

He was fortunate that his arrest coincided with an anti-corruption push in Panama, driven in part by the global interest in the Panama Papers.

“From the moment they arrested me, I must have been such a pain in the arse for the authorities there, because I wouldn’t shut up.”

“I knew they could not afford to keep a journalist in jail.”

Ornstein was pardoned five weeks into his 20-month sentence.

Okke Ornstein in prison in Panama. Image: Jan-Albert Hoostsen, Committee to Protect Journalists

Journalists remain defiant

When asked whether he would still be prepared to risk detention for his reporting, Nathan Maung said: “I would. I would. Even my death.”

“Before the prison, I knew there could be any moment I could be in danger,” he said.

“But I couldn’t stop telling the truth.”

Okke Ornstein said, like Maung, he would not be “shut up” by authorities, but said it was logistically impossible to continue reporting from Panama.

Cancelled

Sometimes it is not governments silencing journalists, but readers or even their peers. Does the threat of cancel culture and social media abuse shape what a journalist does and doesn’t report on? 

The third and final event in the series, ‘Cancelled’, explores cancel culture and its effects on journalism.

Meet journalists who have been forced out jobs or the public sphere and explore how they have responded. 

Secure you tickets now.

Book now

In the first episode of the series, ‘Raided’, journalist Annika Smethurst and former ASIO and DFAT boss Dennis Richardson discussed raids on journalists and newsrooms.

Watch the first episode.

The journalists were sent to Myanmar’s largest jail, Insein Prison, which, from the air, resembles a giant bicycle wheel.

Maung said he was isolated, beaten and tortured.

“The entire first three days I was asked to sit on a chair without moving,” he said.

“I was thinking that at any minute I could be killed.”

Maung was released from prison after three months and deported when military guards realised he was a US citizen.

His colleague Han Thar Nyein is still in jail — more than 250 days after his arrest.

He is not alone. More than 270 journalists are currently imprisoned around the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Maung was detained at Insein jail in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest prison. Image: Thierry Falise/LightRocket/Getty Images

‘I wouldn’t shut up’

Dutch journalist Okke Ornstein said his detention in Panama in 2016, over a story he wrote alleging government corruption and fraud, came as a surprise.

“Nobody thought they would go so far as to arrest someone and put them in jail,” he said.

Ornstein ran a news website called Bananama Republic and has worked with Al Jazeera and Dutch public broadcaster NTR.

He was fortunate that his arrest coincided with an anti-corruption push in Panama, driven in part by the global interest in the Panama Papers.

“From the moment they arrested me, I must have been such a pain in the arse for the authorities there, because I wouldn’t shut up.”

“I knew they could not afford to keep a journalist in jail.”

Ornstein was pardoned five weeks into his 20-month sentence.

Okke Ornstein in prison in Panama. Image: Jan-Albert Hoostsen, Committee to Protect Journalists

Journalists remain defiant

When asked whether he would still be prepared to risk detention for his reporting, Nathan Maung said: “I would. I would. Even my death.”

“Before the prison, I knew there could be any moment I could be in danger,” he said.

“But I couldn’t stop telling the truth.”

Okke Ornstein said, like Maung, he would not be “shut up” by authorities, but said it was logistically impossible to continue reporting from Panama.

Cancelled

Sometimes it is not governments silencing journalists, but readers or even their peers. Does the threat of cancel culture and social media abuse shape what a journalist does and doesn’t report on? 

The third and final event in the series, ‘Cancelled’, explores cancel culture and its effects on journalism.

Meet journalists who have been forced out jobs or the public sphere and explore how they have responded. 

Secure you tickets now.

Book now

In the first episode of the series, ‘Raided’, journalist Annika Smethurst and former ASIO and DFAT boss Dennis Richardson discussed raids on journalists and newsrooms.

Watch the first episode.