Seeking journalists’ release, CPJ sends 400 signed appeals to government

New York, February 1, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists has sent 400 appeals to the government of Burma calling for the immediate and unconditional release of imprisoned journalists Aung Pwint and Thaung Tun, recipients of CPJ’s 2004 International Press Freedom Awards.

The appeals—signed by leading journalists, media executives, and free press advocates—were delivered to the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C., this morning.

The two independent documentary filmmakers were arrested separately in October 1999 and found guilty of distributing information overseas. CPJ sources say they were arrested for documenting the realities of everyday life in Burma, including forced labor and economic hardship in rural areas. They are serving eight-year prison sentences.

In recognition of their commitment to free expression and human rights, CPJ honored Aung Pwint and Thaung Tun (also known as Nyein Thit) with its International Press Freedom Awards in November 2004. Guests at the November 23 awards dinner signed the appeals, which urge the Burmese government to release these men and the other journalists jailed in Burma, and to “uphold the right of all journalists to work freely and safely.”

The appeals were addressed to Than Shwe, chairman of the state peace and development council. They remind him that Aung Pwint and Thaung Tun’s imprisonment violates the right “to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Burma is bound as a member of the United Nations.