NEW YORK—The murder of news editor Wai Yan Heinn in Myanmar, a country notorious for its climate of impunity in attacks on journalists, demands an immediate and thorough investigation, PEN America said in a statement today.

Wai Yan Heinn, 27, was found dead in his office on April 16. The editor of Iron Rose, a weekly news magazine known for its criticism of former military rulers and their business associates, Wai Yan Heinn apparently suffered 15 stab wounds to the stomach and chest, according to news reports. Police have filed a murder investigation under Article 302 of the Myanmar Penal Code, but they have not yet identified any suspects or possible motives for the murder.

“We are shocked by the brutal murder of Wai Yan Heinn and call on authorities to break the cycle of impunity by conducting a thorough and impartial investigation into his killing, taking into account his work as an editor,” said Karin Karlekar, PEN America’s director of Free Expression at Risk Programs.

Journalists and media professionals in Myanmar face severe threats to their safety as a result of their work. At least five journalists have been killed in the country since 1999; most recently, Soe Moe Tun, a journalist investigating illegal logging, was found dead on the side of the road in the northwestern Sagaing region on December 13, 2016. Although police opened an investigation into his murder, no one was arrested. In the case of freelance journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, who was shot dead while in military custody in October 2014, two soldiers were acquitted of his murder following a secret military trial, despite evidence that Naing was tortured.

As documented in PEN America’s 2015 report Unfinished Freedom: A Blueprint for the Future of Free Expression in Myanmar and PEN Myanmar’s December 2016 Free Expression Score Card, a range of restrictive laws, many held over from colonial or military rule, remain on the books in Myanmar and continue to chill media and online speech. Journalists continue to face lawsuits, threats, arrests, and fines. Most recently, authorities filed a defamation case on March 7 against journalist Ko Swe Win after he reportedly posted on Facebook a Myanmar Now article discussing U Wirathu, a hard-line Buddhist monk known for his hate speech against Muslims. The government’s continued failure to prioritize media reform and seriously address other human rights issues, such as the Rohingya refugee crisis, has fueled concerns that recent gains in the climate for free expression are in danger.

###

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Sarah Edkins, Director of Communications: sedkins@pen.org, +1.646.779.4830