Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association have protested at the arrest on 12 July 2005, of press cartoonist Chit Swe, who is also deputy chairman of a local branch of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
His arrest came shortly after a meeting of members of NLD, the party headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, held on the morning of 12 July at Chit Swe’s home in Thanlyin, near the capital Rangoon. Even though the meeting was legal, the authorities arrested the cartoonist, aged around 50, under a law designed to curb criminal activity.
"The latest wave of releases of political prisoners - more than 300 in total - should not blind us to the reality of the crackdown on opposition figures," the two press freedom organisations said. "At least 12 democracy activists have been arrested over the past two weeks. The detention of Chit Swe is a serious violation of freedom of expression."
The cartoonist is being held in Thanlyin police station and will learn on 25 July what charges are being laid against him. If convicted, he could face a heavy prison sentence. If he is released he faces a ban on publishing his cartoons or at the very least surveillance by the Censorship Bureau.
Chit Swe, aged 65, has to sleep on the concrete floor of his cell. He suffers from tonsillitis and acute bronchitis that prevent him from eating normally.
Chit Swe’s cartoons, carried by two Rangoon financial magazines, Dhana Magazine and Myanma Dhana Magazine, are used to illustrate the country’s socio-economic problems. He also published cartoons in several publications as Shou Hwet Thae Pho, Moe Gyow or Ngwe Taryee. He is respected within the press as a talented artist.