Hong Kong (CNN Business)Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw has been released from detention in Myanmar three weeks after he was arrested for covering a protest against the country’s military coup, the news agency has confirmed.
Thein Zaw told the Associated Press by phone following a court hearing on Wednesday that all charges had been dropped because he was doing his job at the time of his arrest.
“I’m looking forward to meeting my family members,” he told the news agency. “I’m sorry for some colleagues who are still in prison.”
Thein Zaw was arrested during a street protest in Yangon on February 27. He had been charged with violating a public order law that carries a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment, according to the Associated Press.
“The Associated Press is deeply relieved that AP journalist Thein Zaw has been freed from prison in Myanmar,” vice president for international news Ian Phillips said in a statement to CNN Business.
“Our relief is tempered by the fact that additional journalists there remain detained. We urge Myanmar to release all journalists and allow them to report freely and safely on what is happening inside the country,” added Phillips.
Scott Griffen, deputy director of the International Press Institute, said the group “welcomes the release of Thein Zaw, who was detained for doing his job as a journalist and should never have been behind bars in the first place.”
“The military junta must stop all forms of harassment and intimidation of media covering demonstrations against the coup and end restrictions on publication and broadcasting by media outlets in the country,” he added.
Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 after claiming that elections held last year were marred by fraud. The coup marked a return to military rule, which stifled the country for decades before some democratic freedoms were introduced around 2010.
The military has responded to protests with increasing violence and efforts to stifle communications. Internet access has been restricted, journalists have been arrested and some newspapers have been barred from publishing.
— Charles Riley contributed reporting.
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