Authorities confirm that Win Tin is to be freed
The military junta’s deputy foreign minister, Kyaw Thu, told the news agency Reuters today that journalist and dissident Win Tin (picture) is indeed on the list of some 4,000 prisoners who are in the process of being released. "We would not have decreed it without really having the intention to release them. (...) If we fail to keep our word, then we will face more pressure, not only from our side, but from the West," he told Reuters.
Win Tin and 12 other journalists still in prison despite anticipated release
Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association called on the prime minister Soe Win to keep his promise and quickly release renowned journalist Win Tin and 12 other journalist prisoners.
Win Tin was still in his special cell at Insein Prison in Rangoon, despite news put out on 19 November that his name was on a list of prisoners whom the military junta was about to release.
Several media and other organisations even reported on 20 November that the 74-year-old Win Tin, arrested on 4 July 1989 and serving a 20-year sentence, had already been freed.
Win Tin’s friends told Reporters Without Borders that neither the prison nor military authorities had told them about any early release.
Speculation about freedom for political prisoners followed an 18 November announcement that nearly 4,000 prisoners were to be freed because of "irregularities" on the part of military intelligence, headed by former prime minister, Gen. Khin Nyunt.
Appealing for the release of Win Tin and 12 other journalists, the two press freedom organisations said, "They were all sentenced for false reasons and at unfair trials. They should all benefit from the decision to release prisoners detained unfairly by former secret service heads."
As at 23 November 2004, at least 13 journalists were in jail in Burma: Aung Pwint, Sein Ohn, Myint Thein, Thaung Tun, Win Tin, Monywa Aung-Shin, Ohn Kyaing, Sein Hla Oo, Thein Tan, Nay Min, Lazing La Htoi, Zaw Thet Htwe and Aung Myint.
Sports journalist Zaw Thet Htwe, editor of the First Eleven, was sentenced on appeal in May 2004 to three years in prison. His arrest was believed linked to the success of the sports magazine, specialising in football, and for its independent editorial line. Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have collected thousands of signatures on an appeal for his release.
The military junta released four journalists in 2003 but has still not freed journalist Sein Hla Oo whose seven-year prison sentence officially ended in August 2001.
For more information about imprisoned Burmese journalists see: www.rsf.org et www.bma-online.net.