Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2008: Burma

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 4 December 2008
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2008: Burma, 4 December 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/494a40232d.html [accessed 26 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, 2008

BURMA: 14

Maung Maung Lay Ngwe, Pe-Tin-Than
IMPRISONED: September 1990

Maung Maung Lay Ngwe was arrested and charged in 1990 with writing and distributing undisclosed publications that the authorities deemed would "make people lose respect for the government." The publications were collectively titled Pe-Tin-Than, which translates loosely as "Echoes." CPJ has been unable to confirm his current whereabouts or legal status.

Aung Htun, freelance
IMPRISONED: February 17, 1998

Aung Htun, a writer and activist, was imprisoned in February 1998 for writing and publishing a seven-volume book that documented the history of the student movement that led to the pro-democracy uprisings of 1988. He was sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison, according to information compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPPB), a prisoner-assistance group based in Thailand.

He was sentenced separately to a three-year term for violating the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act, the military government's main legal instrument of official censorship; a seven-year term under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, which is used broadly to suppress any dissent against the regime; and another seven-year term under the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act, a draconian holdover from Burma's colonial era under British rule, according to the AAPPB.

The writer's health deteriorated during his detention. In 2002, Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal requesting that Aung Htun be granted access to medical treatment for complications related to growths on his feet, which had apparently inhibited his ability to walk, as well as a severe asthma condition. His health deteriorated further in subsequent years, according to the Burma Media Association, an exiled press freedom advocacy group. Amnesty International issued another appeal in July 2007 for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

Aung Htun's book was released by the All Burma Federation of Student Unions on May 16, 2007. He was being held in Insein Prison in Rangoon in 2008.

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

Ne Min, a lawyer and 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 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 provided news to political groups and exile-run news publications before his second arrest in February 2004.

Thaung Sein (Thar Cho), freelance
Kyaw Thwin (Moe Tun), Dhamah Yate
IMPRISONED: March 27, 2006

Thaung Sein, a freelance photojournalist, and Kyaw Thwin, a columnist at the Burmese-language magazine Dhamah Yate, were arrested on March 27, 2006, and sentenced the following day to three years in prison for photographing and videotaping while riding on a public bus near the capital city, Pyinmana.

The two journalists were charged under the 1996 Television and Video Act, which bars the distribution of film without official approval. Under the law, every videotape in Burma must receive a certificate, which may be revoked at any time, from the government's censorship board.

Burmese security officials were under strict orders to stop and detain anyone found taking photographs near the capital. Thaung Sein, also known as Thar Cho, and Kyaw Thwin, more widely known by his pen name Moe Tun, were placed at Yemethin Prison in central Burma, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, a prisoner assistance group based in Thailand.

Both journalists appealed the decision on grounds that they had not taken footage of restricted areas. On June 21, 2007, an appeals court based in the central town of Yemethin upheld the lower court's verdict without allowing defense witnesses to testify, according to information from their lawyer that was received by the Burma Media Association, an exile-run press freedom advocacy group.

Burma's secretive military government abruptly moved the national capital in November 2005 to Pyinmana, a newly built administrative center located 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Rangoon. Regional news reports, citing official government documents, said the junta's decision to move the capital was motivated by fears of supposed military strikes.

Win Saing, freelance
IMPRISONED: August 28, 2007

Win Saing, a photographer, was arrested while documenting activists making offerings to monks during massive pro-democracy demonstrations. The protesters were marching against increased fuel prices that were announced on August 15, 2007. Local monks supported the demonstrations against the military government and became increasingly influential as the unrest continued into September.

More than 2,000 people were arrested during the severe crackdown that followed. Several journalists were detained and later released, but Win Saing remained in prison with no formal charges disclosed, according to exile-run press freedom organization the Burma Media Association.

Nay Phone Latt, 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, according to exile news groups.

The New Delhi-based Mizzima news agency reported that police had detained him at an Internet café and that he was being held at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Nay Phone Latt, whose Web site gave a perspective on Burma's youth, according to news reports, was formerly a youth member of the opposition group National League for Democracy, said Reuters.

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. (The blog was not accessible in late year.) 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, Nay Phone Latt was sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom advocacy group, and news reports.

Thet Zin, Myanmar Nation
Sein Win Maung (Ko Soe), Myanmar Nation
IMPRISONED: February 15, 2008

Police arrested Thet Zin, the editor of weekly Myanmar Nation, and its manager, Sein Win Maung, during a raid on the newspaper's offices on February 15, 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.

Thet Zin's wife, Khin Swe Myint, met with him after his arrest, according to Aung Din. Thet Zin did not tell his wife what charges he was facing but said the prison term could amount to 10 years, Aung Din told CPJ. He suffered from heart and lung ailments; family members were allowed to deliver him medication.

The New Delhi-based Mizzima news agency cited family members as saying 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, 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; by October, exile groups said, the journal had shut down for lack of leadership.

Thet Zin was previously arrested in 1988 for his participation in pro-democracy student demonstrations during which the government killed as many as 3,000 protesters.

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

Police arrested Maung Thura, a well-known comedian who uses the stage name Zarganar, or "Tweezers," on June 4 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 mobilized hundreds of entertainers to help survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Rangoon and much of the Irrawaddy Delta in May. 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 at Insein Prison in Rangoon, the comedian was indicted on at least seven charges, according to international news reports.

On November 21, the court sentenced him 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, defense lawyer Khin Htay Kywe told The Associated Press.

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

Eine Khine Oo, Ecovision Journal
IMPRISONED: June 10, 2008

During a demonstration outside the U.N. Development Program office in Tamwe Township, police detained Eine Khine Oo for taking photographs of protesters that she intended to distribute to overseas media, according to exile media groups. The demonstration was staged by cyclone victims seeking aid, according to international news reports. She was arrested with Kyaw Kyaw Thant, a freelance journalist who was also documenting the demonstration, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association of Political Prisoners in Burma.

Eine Khine Oo, 23, was covering the demonstration for the weekly Ecovision Journal, where she had worked for only two months, according to the Mizzima news agency. On June 25, she was charged under the penal code with denouncing the government, according to international news reports.

In a closed-door trial on November 14, a Burmese court ruled that Eine Khine Oo's coverage had "disturbed tranquility" and sentenced her to two years in prison, according to news reports.

Kyaw Kyaw Thant, freelance
IMPRISONED: June 10, 2008

Police arrested the freelance journalist and former editor of the local Weekly Journal while he was photographing a demonstration by cyclone survivors outside the U.N. Development Program office in Tamwe Township, according to the U.S. Campaign for Burma and the Burma Media Association. He was detained along with photographer Eine Khine Oo, who was also documenting the demonstration.

Prosecutors accused Kyaw Kyaw Thant of being a leading participant in the demonstration, the groups told CPJ. On November 14, a court sentenced him to seven years in prison on antistate charges.

Zaw Thet Htwe, freelance
IMPRISONED: June 13, 2008

Police arrested Rangoon-based freelance journalist Zaw Thet Htwe on June 13 in the town of Minbu, where he was visiting his mother, Agence France-Presse reported. The sportswriter was 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 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 of Political Prisoners in Burma said Zaw Thet Htwe had helped videotape Maung Thura's relief efforts and that police did not inform his family what charges he faced. Police also confiscated a computer and cell phone during a raid on his Rangoon home, according to the group.

In November 21, he was sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison on charges of violating the Electronic Act.

Zaw Thet Htwe was previously arrested 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.

The Mizzima news agency said in August that the journalist's wife, Khaing Cho Zaw Win Tin, had been allowed to see her husband at Insein Prison on August 5.

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

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

Photographs 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 his Burmese-language weekly after his arrest and did not allow his family visitation rights, according to AAPPB.

No formal charges were filed against Aung Kyaw San by late year. He was jailed in 1990 and held for more than three years for activities with the country's pro-democracy movement, AAPPB said.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

Search Refworld

Countries