Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 14:57 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2010 - Burma

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2010
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2010 - Burma, 8 December 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d4977ea28.html [accessed 27 August 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, 2010

Burma: 13

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 aid 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 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.

Win Maw, Democratic Voice of Burma
Imprisoned: November 27, 2007

Win Maw, an undercover reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested with two friends by military intelligence agents in a Rangoon tea shop soon after visiting an Internet café. He was serving a 17-year jail sentence on charges related to his news reporting.

Authorities accused him of acting as the "mastermind" of DVB's in-country news coverage of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a series of Buddhist monk-led protests against the government that were put down by lethal military force, according to DVB.

Win Maw started reporting for DVB in 2003, one year after he was released from a seven-year prison sentence for composing pro-democracy songs, according to DVB. His video reports often focused on the activities of opposition groups, including the 88 Generation Students Group, according to DVB.

Win Maw was first sentenced in closed court proceedings to seven years in prison in 2008 for violations of the Immigration Act and sending "false" information to a Burmese exile-run media group. In 2009, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years for violations of the Electronic Act.

He was being held at the remote Thandwe Prison in northwestern Arakan state, nearly 600 miles from his Rangoon-based family. His family members alleged that police had tortured Win Maw during interrogations and denied him adequate medical attention.

Win Maw received the 2010 Kenji Nagai Memorial Award, an honor bestowed to Burmese journalists in memory of the Japanese photojournalist shot and killed by Burmese troops while covering the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

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

Nay Phone Latt, also known as Nay Myo Kyaw, wrote a blog and owned three Internet cafés in Rangoon. He was arrested the morning of January 29, 2008, under the 1950 Emergency Provision Act on national security-related charges, according to news reports. His blog provided breaking news reports on the military's crackdown on the 2007 Saffron Revolution, which were cited by several foreign news outlets, including the BBC. He also served as a youth member of the opposition National League for Democracy party, according to Reuters.

A court charged Nay Phone Latt in July 2008 with causing public offense and violating video and electronic laws when he posted caricatures of ruling generals on his blog, according to Reuters.

During closed judicial proceedings at Insein Prison on November 10, 2008, 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. The Rangoon Divisional Court later reduced the prison sentence to 12 years. Nay Phone Latt was transferred from Insein to Pa-an Prison in Karen state in late 2008, news reports said.

In 2010, he was honored with the prestigious PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award for his creative and courageous blog postings.

Sein Win Maung, Myanmar Nation
Imprisoned: February 15, 2008

A police raid on the offices of the weekly Myanmar Nation led to the arrest of 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 rapporteur's 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 under the Printers and Publishers Registration Law, which requires that all publications be checked by a state censor before publication.

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 exile-run news website 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. Sein Win Maung remained behind bars in Kengtung Prison in Shan State, approximately 400 miles from his family in Rangoon.

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

Police arrested Maung Thura, a well-known blogger and comedian who used the professional 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 disaster's aftermath 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 Electronics 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 Rangoon Divisional Court later reduced the sentences to a total of 35 years.

The Electronics Act allows for harsh prison sentences for using electronic media, including the Internet, to send information outside the country without government approval.

Maung Thura had been detained on several occasions in the past, including a September 2007 episode in which he was accused of helping Buddhist monks during the Saffron Revolution protests, according to the exile-run press freedom group Burma Media Association. He had maintained a blog, Zarganar-windoor, detailing his work.

The Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma reported that Maung Thura was transferred in December 2008 to remote Myintkyinar Prison in Kachin state, where he was reported to be in poor health. His sister-in-law, Ma Nyein, told the exile news website Irrawaddy 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 Electronics Act, according to the Mizzima news agency. The Rangoon Divisional Court later reduced the term to 11 years, Mizzima reported. He was serving his sentence in Taunggyi Prison in Shan state.

The Electronics Act allows for harsh prison sentences for using electronic media to send information outside the country without government approval.

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 sports 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 and the Mizzima news agency.

Photographs that Aung Kyaw San had taken of cyclone victims appeared on some websites, 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 assistance association. On April 10, 2009, an Insein Prison court 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, the association said. He was serving his sentence at the Taunggyi prison in Shan State, according to the association.

Ngwe Soe Lin (Tun Kyaw), Democratic Voice of Burma
Imprisoned: June 26, 2009

Ngwe Soe Lin, an undercover video journalist with the Oslo-based media organization Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested after leaving an Internet café in the old capital city of Rangoon, according to DVB. Before his conviction, DVB had publicly referred to him only as "T."

He was one of two cameramen who took video footage of children orphaned by the 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster for a documentary titled "Orphans of the Burmese Cyclone." The film was recognized with a Rory Peck Award for best documentary in November 2009. DVB said that another video journalist, identified only as "Zoro," went into hiding after Ngwe Soe Lin's arrest.

On January 27, a special military court attached to Rangoon's Insein Prison sentenced Ngwe Soe Lin, also known as Tun Kyaw, to 13 years in prison on charges related to the vague and draconian Electronics and Immigration acts, according to a DVB statement.

The Electronics Act allows for harsh prison sentences for using electronic media to send information outside the country without government approval.

Hla Hla Win, Democratic Voice of Burma
Myint Naing, freelance
Imprisoned: September 11, 2009

Hla Hla Win, an undercover reporter with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested on her way back from a reporting assignment in Pakokku Township, Magwe Division, where she had conducted interviews with Buddhist monks in a local monastery. Her assistant, Myint Naing, was also arrested, according to the independent Asian Human Rights Commission.

Hla Hla Win was working on a story pegged to the second anniversary of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, Buddhist monk-led protests against the government that were put down by lethal military force, according to her DVB editors.

In October 2009, a Pakokku Township court sentenced Hla Hla Win and Myint Naing to seven years in prison for using an illegally imported motorcycle.

After interrogations in prison, Hla Hla Win was charged with violating the Electronics Act and sentenced to an additional 20 years on December 30, 2009. Myint Naing was sentenced to an additional 25 years under the act, the Asian Human Rights Commission said. The Electronics Act allows for harsh prison sentences for using electronic media to send information outside the country without government approval.

Hla Hla Win first joined DVB as an undercover reporter in December 2008. According to her editors, she played an active role in covering issues considered sensitive to the government, including local reaction to the controversial trial in 2009 of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In 2010, Hla Hla Win received the Kenji Nagai Memorial Award, an honor bestowed to Burmese journalists in memory of the Japanese photojournalist shot and killed by Burmese troops while covering the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

Nyi Nyi Tun, Kandarawaddy
Imprisoned: October 14, 2009

A court attached to Rangoon's Insein Prison sentenced Nyi Nyi Tun, editor of the news journal Kandarawaddy, to 13 years in prison on October 13, 2010, a year after his initial detention.

The court found Nyi Nyi Tun guilty of several antistate crimes, including violations of the Unlawful Associations, Immigration, and Wireless acts, according to Mizzima, a Burmese exile-run news agency.

Nyi Nyi Tun was first detained on terrorism charges on October 14, 2009, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, a Thailand-based advocacy organization. Authorities originally tried to connect him to a series of bomb blasts in Rangoon but apparently dropped the allegations.

Nyi Nyi Tun told his family members that he had been tortured during his interrogation, Mizzima reported. After his arrest in 2009, Burmese authorities shut down Kandarawaddy, a local-language journal that operated out of the Kayah special region near the country's eastern border, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom advocacy group.

Sithu Zeya, Democratic Voice of Burma
Imprisoned: April 15, 2010

Sithu Zeya, a video journalist with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested while covering a grenade attack that left nine dead and hundreds injured during the annual Buddhist New Year water festival in Rangoon.

DVB editors said Sithu Zeya, 21, was near the crowded area where the blast occurred and started filming the aftermath as government authorities arrived on the scene. He was arrested immediately by police officials, who also seized his laptop computer and other personal belongings, DVB reported.

A police official, Khin Yi, said at a May 6 press conference that Sithu Zeya had been arrested for taking video footage of the attack. His mother, Yee Yee Tint, told DVB after a prison visit in May that he had been denied food and beaten during police interrogations that left a constant ringing in his ear.

DVB Deputy Editor Khin Maung Win told CPJ that Sithu Zeya had been forced to reveal under torture that his father, Maung Maung Zeya, also served as an undercover DVB reporter. They were both detained at Rangoon's Insein Prison.

As of December 1, Sithu Zeya awaited a court verdict on charges related to the Unlawful Association, Immigration, and Electronic acts.

Maung Maung Zeya, Democratic Voice of Burma
Imprisoned: April 17, 2010

Maung Maung Zeya, an undercover reporter with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested at his Rangoon house two days after his son and fellow DVB journalist, Sithu Zeya, was arrested for filming the aftermath of a fatal bomb attack during a Buddhist New Year celebration, according to DVB.

Maung Maung Zeya was first detained and interrogated at the Bahan Township police station in Rangoon and transferred June 14 to Rangoon's Insein Prison. DVB editors said he was a "senior member" of their undercover team inside Burma and was responsible for operation management, including making reporting assignments to other DVB journalists.

Hearings in his trial on charges related to the Unlawful Association, Immigration, and Electronic acts began on June 22 at Western Rangoon's Provincial Court. DVB Deputy Editor Khin Maung Win told CPJ that authorities had offered to free Maung Maung Zeya if he divulged the names of other undercover DVB reporters. Charges were pending as of December 1.

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