Appeal for release of jailed Myanmar reporters

2011-05-04 13:41

Bangkok – A leading Myanmar media group in exile appealed today for worldwide pressure to secure the release of its 17 video journalists serving long prison sentences in the military-dominated country.

The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) called on the international community, particularly Southeast Asian leaders, “to use every opportunity” to demand the freedom of journalists behind bars in Myanmar.

The DVB, which was last year tipped as one of the top contenders for the Nobel Peace Prize, said in the past six months alone, two of its video journalists were jailed for up to 13 years.

They joined others including DVB reporter Hla Hla Win, who was sentenced to 27 years in jail in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma. Her crime: interviewing a monk during the “Saffron Revolution” 2007 failed uprising.

“Reporting the truth is not a crime,” said DVB’s Thailand bureau chief Toe Zaw Latt. “Someone should not be jailed 20 years for being a journalist.”
DVB said in total more than 25 media workers are imprisoned in Myanmar.

Overseas-based media such as the DVB are seen as an important source of news in the impoverished nation, where an authoritarian government keeps a stranglehold on domestic reporting.

“The ongoing incarceration of journalists, who are among the nearly 2 100 political prisoners in Burma, and the absence of any evidence that the government is moving to free them, are clear signs that little has changed since the ostensible end to military rule,” DVB said in a statement.

Myanmar’s generals in March handed over power to a nominally civilian government after almost half a century of military rule. The move followed the country’s first election in two decades.

The polls, criticised by pro-democracy campaigns and Western governments as a charade to put a civilian facade on army rule, were marred by the absence of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and complaints of cheating and intimidation.

“The post-election situation for journalists in Myanmar is getting worse,” said David Mathieson, a researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.

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