Last Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014, 16:37 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2009: Burma

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2009
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2009: Burma, 8 December 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b220ca4c.html [accessed 28 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2009

Burma: 9

Ne Min (Win Shwe), freelance
Imprisoned: February 2004

Ne Min, a lawyer and a former stringer for the BBC, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on May 7, 2004, on charges that he illegally passed information to "antigovernment" organizations operating in border areas, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, a prisoner assistance group based in Thailand.

It was the second time that Burma's military government had imprisoned the well-known journalist, also known as Win Shwe, on charges related to disseminating information to news sources outside of Burma. In 1989, a military tribunal sentenced Ne Min to 14 years of hard labor for "spreading false news and rumors to the BBC to fan further disturbances in the country" and "possession of documents including antigovernment literature, which he planned to send to the BBC," according to official radio reports. He served nine years at Rangoon's Insein Prison before being released in 1998.

Exiled Burmese journalists who spoke with CPJ said that Ne Min had provided news to political groups and exile-run news publications before his second arrest in February 2004.

Nay Phone Latt (Nay Myo Kyaw), freelance
Imprisoned: January 29, 2008

Nay Phone Latt, a businessman also known as Nay Myo Kyaw, wrote a blog and owned three Internet cafés in Rangoon. He went missing on the morning of January 29, 2008, according to exile-run news groups.

The New Delhi-based Mizzima news agency reported that police had detained Nay Phone Latt at an Internet café and that he was being held at the Ministry of Home Affairs. The journalist, whose Web site offered perspectives on Burmese youth, had been a youth member of the opposition group National League for Democracy, Reuters said.

A court charged Nay Phone Latt in July with causing public offense and violating video and electronic laws when he posted caricatures of ruling generals on his blog, according to Reuters. He was being held in Insein Prison, according to a joint report by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma and the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

During closed judicial proceedings held at the Insein compound on November 10, 2008, Nay Phone Latt was sentenced on several counts under the penal code to a total of 20 years and six months in prison, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom advocacy group, and news reports. In late 2008, he was transferred to Pa-an Prison in Karen state, news reports said.

In February 2009, the Rangoon Divisional Court commuted the sentence to a total of 12 years. Nay Phone Latt's lawyers continued to challenge the conviction and appeared before the High Court on June 22, according to Mizzima. The court turned back the appeal.

Sein Win Maung (Ko Soe), Myanmar Nation
Imprisoned: February 15, 2008

Police conducting a raid on the offices of the weekly Myanmar Nation arrested editor Thet Zin and manager Sein Win Maung, according to local and international news reports. Police also seized the journalists' cell phones, footage of monk-led antigovernment demonstrations that took place in Burma in September 2007, and a report by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Burma, according to Aung Din, director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma. The report detailed killings associated with the military government's crackdown on the 2007 demonstrators.

The New Delhi-based Mizzima news agency cited family members as saying that the two were first detained in the Thingangyun Township police station before being charged with illegal printing and publishing on February 25.

On November 28, 2008, a closed court at the Insein Prison compound sentenced each to seven years in prison.

Police ordered Myanmar Nation's staff to stop publishing temporarily, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom advocacy group with representatives in Bangkok. The news Web site Irrawaddy said the newspaper was allowed to resume publishing in March 2008; by October of that year, exile-run groups said, the journal had shut down for lack of leadership.

Thet Zin was among 7,000 prisoners released as part of a government amnesty on September 17, 2009, according to international news reports. His colleague remained behind bars in late year.

Maung Thura (Zarganar), freelance
Imprisoned: June 4, 2008

Police arrested Maung Thura, a well-known comedian who used the online and stage name Zarganar, or "Tweezers," at his home in Rangoon, according to news reports. The police also seized electronic equipment at the time of the arrest, according to Agence France-Presse.

Maung Thura had mobilized hundreds of entertainers to help survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Rangoon and much of the Irrawaddy Delta in May 2008. His footage of relief work in hard-hit areas was circulated on DVD and on the Internet. Photographs and DVD footage of the aftermath of the disaster were among the items police confiscated at the time of his arrest, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma and the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

In the week he was detained, Maung Thura gave several interviews to overseas-based news outlets, including the BBC, criticizing the military junta's response to the disaster. The day after his arrest, state-controlled media published warnings against sending video footage of relief work to foreign news agencies.

During closed proceedings in August 2008 at Insein Prison in Rangoon, the comedian was indicted on at least seven charges, according to international news reports.

On November 21, 2008, the court sentenced Maung Thura to 45 years in prison on three separate counts of violating the Electronic Act. Six days later, the court added 14 years to his term after convicting him on charges of communicating with exiled dissidents and causing public alarm in interviews with foreign media, his defense lawyer, Khin Htay Kywe, told The Associated Press. The sentence was later reduced to a total of 35 years by the Rangoon Divisional Court.

Maung Thura had been detained on several occasions in the past, including in September 2007 for helping Buddhist monks during antigovernment protests, according to the exile-run press freedom group Burma Media Association. He had maintained a blog, Zarganar-windoor, which his supporters continued to update in 2009.

The Democratic Voice of Burma reported that Maung Thura had been transferred to a remote location, Myintkyinar Prison in Kachin state, in December 2008, where he was reported in poor health. His sister-in-law, Ma Nyein, told Irawaddy that the journalist suffered from hypertension and jaundice.

Zaw Thet Htwe, freelance
Imprisoned: June 13, 2008

Police arrested Rangoon-based freelance journalist Zaw Thet Htwe on June 13, 2008, in the town of Minbu, where he was visiting his mother, Agence France-Presse reported. The sportswriter had been working with comedian-blogger Maung Thura in delivering aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis and videotaping the relief effort.

The journalist, who formerly edited the popular sports newspaper First Eleven, was indicted in a closed tribunal on August 7, 2008, and was tried along with Maung Thura and two activists, AFP reported. The group faced multiple charges, including violating the Video Act and Electronic Act and disrupting public order and unlawful association, news reports said.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma said police confiscated a computer and cell phone during a raid on Zaw Thet Htwe's Rangoon home.

In November 2008, Zaw Thet Htwe was sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison on charges of violating the Electronic Act, according to the Mizzima news agency. The Rangoon Divisional Court later reduced the prison term to 11 years, Mizzima reported. He was put in Taunggyi Prison in Shan state in 2009.

Zaw Thet Htwe had been arrested before, in 2003, and given the death sentence for plotting to overthrow the government, news reports said. The sentence was later commuted. AFP reported that the 2003 arrest was related to a story he published about a misappropriated football grant.

Aung Kyaw San, Myanmar Tribune
Imprisoned: June 15, 2008

Aung Kyaw San, editor-in-chief of the Myanmar Tribune, was arrested in Rangoon along with 15 others returning from relief activities in the Irrawaddy Delta region, which was devastated by Cyclone Nargis, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPPB) and the Mizzima news agency.

Photographs that Aung Kyaw San had taken of cyclone victims appeared on some Web sites, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom group run by exiled journalists. Authorities closed the Burmese-language weekly after his arrest and did not allow his family visitation rights, according to the association. On April 10, 2009, a special court in Insein Prison sentenced him to two years' imprisonment for unlawful association, Mizzima reported.

Aung Kyaw San was formerly jailed in 1990 and held for more than three years for activities with the country's pro-democracy movement, AAPPB said.

"T," Democratic Voice of Burma
Imprisoned: July 2009

The video-journalist known publicly as "T" reported news for the Oslo-based media organization Democratic Voice of Burma. He was one of two cameramen on an award-winning international documentary, "Orphans of the Burmese Cyclone," according to news reports.

The Rory Peck Trust announced the arrest on November 18 as it honored "T" and his Burmese colleague, "Z," with the Rory Peck Award for Features for their work on the documentary. The independent UK-based Rory Peck Trust supports freelance journalists. It said "T" had been arrested four months earlier and had recently been charged under the Electronic Act with filming without government permission. Khin Maung Win, deputy executive director of the Democratic Voice of Burma, confirmed the arrest in a November 30 report on the organization's Web site. He said "Z" was in hiding.

"T" was arrested as he left an Internet café in Rangoon six months after completing the documentary, according to UK-based The Independent. The exact date was not reported. He was being held in Insein Prison, according to The Independent. "T" faced a jail sentence of 10 to 15 years, news reports said.

Thant Zin Soe, Foreign Affairs
Imprisoned: October 27, 2009

Police and military intelligence officials arrested Thant Zin Soe, an editor and translator at the newsweekly Foreign Affairs, at his home in Rangoon, according to the exile-run groups Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPPB) and Burma Media Association.

Thant Zin Soe was also a member of the Lin Let Kye (Shining Star) volunteer relief group, which provided unsanctioned relief to Cyclone Nargis survivors and has been targeted by authorities for persecution. No formal charges had been filed against him by December 1, according to the groups. He was being held at the Aung Thabye Detention Center in Rangoon, according to the Burma Media Association.

Paing Soe Oo (Jay Paing), freelance
Imprisoned: October 28, 2009

Six officials arrested Paing Soe Oo in his apartment in Rangoon, according to the exile-run Mizzima news agency. Officials searched his home and seized one of the journalist's notebooks, the report said.

Paing Soe Oo, who formerly worked for the weekly news publications Favorite and Pyi Myanmar, is a freelance online commentator writing under the name Jay Paing. He also was a member of the volunteer relief group Lin Let Kye (Shining Star), which provided unsanctioned relief to Cyclone Nargis survivors and has been targeted by authorities for persecution.

Maung Thura, an organizing member of Lin Let Kye, was serving a total of 35 years for communicating with exiled dissidents and giving interviews to foreign media that criticized the government's disaster relief efforts.

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