US demands Myanmar release detained journalists, protesters

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration stepped up its condemnation of the coup in Myanmar on
Thursday, demanding that military authorities stop their brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters
and release demonstrators and journalists who have been detained.
The White House called the situation, including the arrest of an Associated Press journalist,
"troubling" and of "great concern." The State Department said it’s working with
other countries to send a unified message to the military that its actions are unacceptable and will be
met with consequences.
The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s top military leaders since the Feb. 1 coup, but
stepped up pressure after security forces killed as many as 38 people on Wednesday. The administration
says it’s in close touch with partners and allies, as well as with countries like China, to try to
convince Myanmar officials to ease their heavy-handed response to the protests.
"The detainment of journalists, the targeting of journalists and dissidents is certainly something
that is of great concern to the president, to the secretary of state and to every member of our
administration," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
At the State Department, spokesman Ned Price said the administration was "deeply saddened" by
reports of deaths in the crackdown on protests. "This latest escalation in violence demonstrates
the fact of the junta’s complete disregard for their own people, for the people of Burma," he said.
"It is unacceptable."
"We are deeply concerned about the increasing attacks on and arrest of journalists," he said.
"We call on the military to immediately release these individuals and to cease their intimidation
and harassment of the media and others who are unjustly detained for doing nothing more than their job,
for doing nothing more than exercising their universal rights."
Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw and several other members of the media were arrested last week
while covering security forces charging at anti-coup protesters. They have been charged with violating a
public order law that could see them imprisoned for up to three years. The AP and press freedom groups
have called for Zaw’s immediate release, but there has been no response from the authorities.
The U.S. and other countries have roundly condemned the coup and the ensuing crackdown on dissent to
little effect thus far. Price said the United States was looking toward China, Myanmar’s most powerful
neighbor and friend, to exert its influence on the military.
"We have urged the Chinese to play a constructive role to use their influence with the Burmese
military to bring this coup to an end," he said. "There have been a number of conversations
with Chinese officials at different levels, and our message in all of those conversations has been
consistent: The world, every responsible constructive member of the international community, needs to
use its voice, needs to work to bring this coup to an end and to restore the democratically elected
government of Burma."
Earlier Thursday, footage of the brutal crackdown on protests against the coup unleashed outrage and
calls for a stronger international response. Videos showed security forces shooting a person at
point-blank range and chasing down and savagely beating demonstrators.
The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had
languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals
loosened their grip in recent years, the international community lifted most sanctions and poured in
investment.