JAKARTA, Indonesia

Myanmar’s military must end its attacks on journalists and immediately release those it has arrested, media rights groups in Indonesia and Malaysia said on Friday.

The military junta has committed serious human rights violations and its acts have tarnished democracy in Myanmar, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and Gerakan Media Merdeka (GERAMM) said in a joint statement.

According to the groups, at least 22 journalists have been arrested in Myanmar, with at least six, including Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw, charged under a public order law that could see them jailed for up to three years.

The junta has also restricted and blocked internet and communication access in several parts of the country.

Arrests and harassment of journalists will only worsen the press freedom situation in Myanmar, the groups said.

“We ask Myanmar authorities to release and stop attacking journalists who only carry out their duties,” read the statement.

The organizations said they were very concerned that the crisis in Myanmar could destabilize all of Southeast Asia.

They called for efforts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the UN to “stop the violence in Myanmar.”

Myanmar’s army seized power on Feb. 1, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and ending the country’s brief experiment with democratic rule.

Massive anti-coup protests across the country have led to a violent crackdown by the military, with over 60 people killed and more than 1,000 arrested.

* Writing by Maria Elisa Hospita

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