Myanmar is One of the World’s Top Jailers of Writers, Human Rights Group Said

Myanmar has joined China and Saudi Arabi as the top jailers of writers in the world in 2021, according to a freedom of expression advocacy group.

Myanmar jailed at least 26 writers in 2021, accounting for the single-largest increase of writers and public intellectuals newly jailed for exercising freedom of expression, PEN America, a New York-based nonprofit organization, revealed in its Freedom to Write Index on April 13.

The 2021 figure is a steep increase from eight in 2020, putting Myanmar from ninth place to third place in the world ranking.

According to PEN America, the detention and arrests of writers in Myanmar began as soon as the military junta staged a coup on Feb. 1, 2021.

Myanmar is one of three countries — the other two being China and Saudi Arabia — that account for more than half of the total number of writers detained and arrested in 2021.

Across the world, at least 277 writers in 36 countries were imprisoned or detained last year in connection with their writing or for exercising free expression, PEN America said.

“PEN America is sounding the alarm that the number of writers and public intellectuals detained or imprisoned in 2021 remains intolerably high, and we are particularly distressed to see Myanmar among the top three jailers of writers, in the wake of the junta’s ruthless crackdown on free expression and human rights,” Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of PEN America’s free expression at risk programs, said in a statement.

The index is based on PEN America’s own internal research, as well as news reports, data from other human rights groups, and information from relatives of those detained


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