Sithu Zeya

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Sithu Zeya, a video journalist with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested while covering a grenade attack that left 10 dead and hundreds injured during the annual Buddhist New Year water festival in Rangoon, according to DVB. He was sentenced on two separate occasions to a total of 18 years in prison for his reporting activities.

On December 21, 2010, he was sentenced to eight years in prison under the Immigration and Unlawful Association acts on charges of illegally crossing the border and having ties to DVB.

DVB editors said Sithu Zeya was near the crowded area where the blast occurred and started filming the aftermath as authorities began to arrive on the scene. Authorities seized his laptop computer, video camera, and MP3 player, according to DVB. A police official, Khin Yi, said at a May 6, 2010, press conference that Sithu Zeya had been arrested for taking video footage of the attack.

On September 14, 2011, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years in prison under the Electronics Act. A Rangoon court ruled that his online activities threatened to “damage the tranquility and unity in the government,” according to international press reports.

His mother, Yee Yee Tint, told DVB after a prison visit in May 2010 that the journalist had been denied food and that the beatings he suffered during police interrogations had left him with a constant ringing in his ear. The Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy said he was tortured in a variety of ways, including beatings on the soles of his feet, being hung upside down, and being forced to maintain stress positions.

DVB Deputy Editor Khin Maung Win told CPJ that Sithu Zeya had been forced to reveal under torture that his father, Maung Maung Zeya, also served as an undercover DVB reporter. (Maung Maung Zeya was arrested two days later.) The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma reported that Sithu Zeya was placed in an isolation cell in January 2011 for failing to comply with prison regulations. He was taken out of the isolation cell every 15 minutes and forced to repeatedly squat and crawl as punishment, the assistance association said.

Both of his convictions were based solely on his forced confessions, without any independent corroborating evidence, the Centre for Law and Democracy said.