Burmese editor sentenced to 13 years in prison

Bangkok, October 22, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the 13-year prison sentence handed down last week by a Burmese court to Nyi Nyi Tun, editor of the Kandarawaddy news publication.

On October 13, the Seikkan Township court attached to Rangoon’s Insein Prison found the journalist guilty of “crimes against the state.” He was convicted of violating the Unlawful Associations, Immigration Emergency Provisions and Wireless Acts and other laws, according to Mizzima News, a Burmese exile-run news agency based in New Delhi.

“The bogus charges and harsh sentencing of Nyi Nyi Tun make a mockery of the ruling junta’s professed transition towards democracy,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “A free press is essential to a functioning democracy — a reality Burma’s journalist-jailing junta still hasn’t grasped.”

Nyi Nyi Tun was first detained in Rangoon on October 14, 2009, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners of Burma, a Thailand-based advocacy organization. Authorities originally tried to connect him to a series of bomb blasts in the old capital city, allegations that were apparently later discarded. Nyi Nyi Tun told his family members that he was tortured during his interrogation, Mizzima News reported.

Nyi Nyi Tun was convicted on charges similar to those used to jail other Burmese journalists, including association with exile-run news groups and unauthorized use of electronic media.

After Nyi Nyi Tun’s arrest last year, Burmese authorities shut down Kandarawaddy, a local-language news 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.

Nyi Nyi Tun’s jailing is the latest in a series of harsh sentences for journalists. On December 30, 2009, Hla Hla Win, an undercover reporter with the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was sentenced to 27 years in prison on charges related to the Electronic Act, which bars the unauthorized use of electronic media, including the Internet, to send information outside of the country.

On January 27, a Rangoon-based prison court sentenced DVB reporter Ngwe Soe Lin to 13 years in prison on charges related to the Electronic and Immigration Acts. Ngwe Soe Lin was first arrested in June 2009 after taking video footage of children orphaned by the 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster. Two other DVB reporters, Sithu Zeya and Maung Maung Zeya, were arrested in mid-April this year and remain behind bars while awaiting a verdict in their respective trials.

CPJ research shows that Burma has at least 12 journalists behind bars, the second-highest tally in Asia. (Only China exceeds this number, with more than 24 journalists jailed.) DVB told CPJ that about a dozen of its undercover reporters are also being held by Burmese authorities on various charges, but that they must remain anonymous because their sentences could be extended if they were revealed to be DVB journalists.