BURMA: Appalling 20-year jail sentence for Democratic Voice of Burma video reporter 


Reporters without Borders and the Burma Media Association are appalled by the 20-year jail sentence that a court has just imposed on Hla Hla Win, a freelance video reporter who provided material to the Burmese exile broadcaster Democratic Voice of Burma. Detained since September, she was already given a seven-year sentence in October.

“People had been expecting signs of an opening and goodwill gestures from the military junta in this election year, but this extremely severe sentence on a 25-year-old video maker and the junta chief’s recent threatening comments leave little hope that the elections will be free,” the two organisations said. “We are outraged that this young woman has been given a 20-year jail term.”

The two organisations added: “The very dangerous work carried out by Burma’s video reporters, made famous by the documentary Buma VJ, is crucial for the dissemination of independent, propaganda-free information both domestically and abroad. ASEAN and the rest of the international community should make press freedom one of the conditions for recognising the 2010 elections.”

A senior representative of the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma told Reporters without Borders that the sentence imposed on Hla Hla Win was “unjust” because all she did was “gather information about the situation in Burma, nothing more.”

At least 13 journalists and bloggers are currently detained in Burma, most of them in very harsh conditions.

The 20-year sentence was imposed on Hla Hla Win by a court in Pakokku (30 km north of the central city of Bagan) on 31 December for an alleged violation of the Electronic Act. A person who was accompanying her at the time of her arrest, Myint Naing, was given a 26-year sentence. The exile media Mizzima said Pakokku-based lawyers were reluctant to defend them in a case of a political nature.

Hla Hla Win was arrested on 11 September after visiting a monastery in Pakokku (Magwe Division) and was given a seven-year sentence the following month under the Export Import Act for using an illegally imported motorcycle. In all, she will now have to serve a combined sentence of 26 years in prison.

Following her arrest, she went on hunger struck for several days in protest against her detention and had to be hospitalised because her health deteriorated rapidly.

Born in 1984, Hla Hla Min studied economics and then began working as a teacher.

Ever since the September 2007 Saffron Revolution, the security forces have been cracking down on Burmese who send photos and video abroad to exile news media and opposition groups. Around 20 journalists and bloggers have been arrested since then by police or soldiers.

In an Independence Day speech yesterday, junta chief Gen. Than Shwe asked his compatriots to make the “correct choice” in the elections due to be held this year. So far, the authorities have given no kind of guarantee that citizen journalists and journalists employed by foreign news media will be able to work during the elections. As things stand, they continue to face prison sentences under article 33 (A) of the Electronic Law if they use the Internet to send information abroad.

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Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-001-2010
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