Zaw Thet Htwe

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Police arrested Rangoon-based freelance journalist Zaw Thet Htwe in the town of Minbu, where he was visiting his mother, Agence France-Presse reported. The sportswriter had been working with comedian-blogger Maung Thura in delivering aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis and videotaping the relief effort.

The journalist, who formerly edited the popular sports newspaper First Eleven, was indicted in a closed tribunal on August 7, 2008, and tried along with Maung Thura and two activists, AFP reported. The group faced multiple charges, including violating the Video and Electronics acts, disrupting public order, and engaging in unlawful association, news reports said. The Electronics Act allows for harsh prison sentences for anyone who uses electronic media to send information outside the country without government approval.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma said police officials confiscated a computer and cell phone during a raid on Zaw Thet Htwe’s Rangoon home.

In November 2008, Zaw Thet Htwe was sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison, according to the exile-run Mizzima news agency. The Rangoon Divisional Court later reduced the term to 11 years, Mizzima reported. The journalist was serving his sentence in Taunggyi Prison in Shan state, nearly 400 miles from his home and family. Maung Thura, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison, was freed in an October 2011 amnesty of political prisoners.

Zaw Thet Htwe had been arrested before, in 2003, and given the death sentence for plotting to overthrow the government, news reports said. The sentence was later commuted to three years in prison, according to the exile-run news website The Irrawaddy. AFP reported that his 2003 arrest was related to a story about a misappropriated sports grant.