September 14, 2000
His Excellency Senior General Than Shwe
Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, Union of Myanmar
Ministry of Defense
Signal Pagoda Road
SENT VIA FAX: 202-332-9046 (c/o the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar)
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is outraged by the imprisonment of Cheng Poh, a lawyer who was sentenced yesterday to 14 years in jail for allegedly distributing foreign news articles.
CPJ sources confirmed that Cheng Poh was arrested in July, and has been detained for the last two months in Yangon's notorious Insein Prison. A special court housed inside the prison compound delivered the sentence yesterday, according to The Associated Press. Cheng Poh was given two consecutive seven-year prison terms under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act and the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law, both of which are regularly used to punish journalists and political dissidents.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is outraged that Burmese citizens such as Cheng Poh are deprived of their internationally-recognized right to freedom of expression. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all people are free to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Myanmar regularly violates international law by imprisoning citizens for exchanging news and information.
CPJ respectfully calls on Your Excellency to order Cheng Poh's prompt and unconditional release, and to lift all restrictions on the free circulation of information in Myanmar.
Ann K. Cooper