A fourth journalist, Ohn Kyaing, aged 60, was released on 3 January 2005, from Toungoo jail north of Rangoon.
He had been arrested in September 1990 by agents of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and sentenced to 17 years in prison for "writing and distributing seditious pamphlets" and "threatening state security".
Less than 24 hours after his release, Ohn Kyaing went on 4 January to the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Rangoon to take part in Independence Day celebrations.
The journalist and NLD elected member of parliament wrote many articles under the pen name Aung Wint in newspapers such as Hanthawathi and Botahtaung from which he was dismissed by the authorities.
He suffered from high blood pressure in prison and his friends and family said he was extremely tired. While in jail, he taught English, journalism and international relations to younger prisoners.
French media, including TV channel TF1, Sud-Radio, dailies Le Parisien and La République du Centre, and Swiss newspaper La Liberté, campaigned for Ohn Kyaing’s release for several years. Thousands of people signed a petition on www.rsf.org calling for him to be freed.
Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association warmly welcomed the release of journalists Zaw Thet Htwe, Thein Tan and Aung Myint but urged the military junta to release 9 other journalists, including the most prominent of them, U Win Tin.
The two released men were among thousands of prisoners freed on 3 January. The government-ruled radio said the releases were linked to their "good behaviour and contribution to the state during their imprisonment".
The two press freedom organisations called on the government of General Soe Win to comply with its promises to free all prisoners, in particular all the journalists, who were unfairly arrested and sentenced by the former Military Intelligence Service (MIS).
Sports journalist Zaw Thet Htwe was freed on the morning of 3 January from Insein Prison in Rangoon. He had been successively condemned to death, then to three years in prison for "high treason", in connection with a never substantiated assassination attempt against junta leaders.
His arrest was really linked to the success of the football specialist sports magazine First Eleven that he edited and its independent editorial line. An officer in the MIS wanted to get rid of an awkward journalist.
More than 6,000 people signed a petition for the release of Zaw Thet Htwe that was launched by Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders during the last European football Cup.
Aung Myint (picture), better known under the name of Phyapon Ni Loan Oo, was also released from Insein Prison on 3 January where he was serving a 21-year prison sentence under emergency legislation passed in 1950 and a 1908 law on illegal organisations.
The journalist, poet and the head of the information department at the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Rangoon, was arrested on 14 September 2000 for giving articles to the international press about the plight of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. At the time she had been blockaded for several days in open country by the military determined to prevent her from leaving Rangoon by car.
At the time of his arrest, Aung Myint was banned from writing for the Burmese press, following an earlier two-year period of imprisonment for his stance against the dictatorship. He worked successively for the magazines Pay-Phu-Hlwar and Cherry.
Renowned journalist and bookseller Thein Tan, aged 74, from central Mandalay was released from Thayet Prison, north of Rangoon. He was arrested and sentenced in 1990 to ten years in prison for articles he wrote about the death of four demonstrators in August 1990. He should have been freed in December 2000 but the authorities added an unspecified amount of time to his sentence. Thein Tan resigned in the mid-1980s from the government newspaper Kyemon to work with opposition magazines. He was also one of the leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Mandalay, Burma’s cultural capital.
According to several reports, MIS agents tortured the three journalists during the first weeks of their imprisonment.