Military intelligence agents arrested Win Maw, an undercover reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma, an Oslo-based Burmese exile news organization, in a Rangoon tea shop shortly after he had visited an Internet café. He is serving a 17-year jail sentence on various charges related to his news reporting.
Authorities accused him of acting as the “mastermind” of DVB’s in-country news coverage of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a series of Buddhist monk-led protests against the government that was put down by lethal military force, according to DVB.
The front man for the well-known pop band Shwe Thanzin (Golden Melody), Win Maw started reporting for DVB in 2003, a year after he was released from a seven-year prison sentence for composing pro-democracy songs, according to DVB. His video reports often focused on the activities of opposition groups, including the 88 Generation Students group.
After being arrested in November 2007, Win Maw was sentenced in closed-court proceedings on November 11, 2008, to seven years in prison for penal code violations stemming from the possession of video and recording equipment, and the Immigration Act violations related to crossing the Burmese border without a valid passport.
In March 2009, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years for violations of the Electronics Act after police raided his house while he was in detention and uncovered a computer disk with information destined for DVB, the news organizations said. The charges also related to his sending letters to DVB from an Internet café. The 11 months he spent in prison awaiting trial were not counted toward his sentence, according to the Canadian human rights group Centre for Law and Democracy.
Win Maw was being held at the remote Thandwe Prison in Arakan state, nearly 600 miles from his Rangoon-based family. Family members said police had tortured him during interrogations and denied him adequate medical attention after breaking his nose, according to DVB.
Win Maw received the 2010 Kenji Nagai Memorial Award, an honor bestowed on Burmese journalists in memory of the Japanese photojournalist shot and killed by Burmese troops while covering the 2007 Saffron Revolution. The award was created by APF, a Japanese video news agency, and the Burma Media Association, an exile-run press freedom group.