Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association firmly condemn the transfers of journalist U Win Tin and blogger Nay Phone Latt to Insein prison, near Rangoon. The two organisations also condemn a government decision to restrict the content of newspapers’ websites to the articles approved by military censors for the print editions.
“U Win Tin and Nay Phone Latt have no place in Insein prison,” the organisations said. “It is a crime to send U Win Tin, one of the country’s leading journalists, back to this appalling prison just 20 days after a hospital operation, while Nay Phone Latt’s imprisonment is a disturbing sign that the military are ready to try him. We call for their unconditional release.”
The two organisation added: “The imprisonment of journalists and bloggers and the censorship board’s harassment of a number of privately-owned publications at the same time that the military junta is promising a referendum and elections in 2010 show that these promises of a democratic evolution are just a trick.”
The censorship board sent a directive to 11 newspapers and magazines at the start of the month telling them that the front page of their websites should be no different from the front page of their print editions, and that the website content should include no information that has not been approved for publication in print. Websites that fail to comply would be closed, the directive said.
The 11 publications were Weekly Eleven (http://www.weeklyeleven.com/), 7 Days News (http://www.planet.com.mm/news/), Myanmar Times (http://www.myanmar.com/myanmartimes/), Flower News (http://www.myanmarvisa.com/flowernews/index.htm), Yangon Times (http://www.theyangontimes.com/), and the monthlies Popular, Action Times, Snapshot, Yati, Tharapu and Fashion Image.
The winner of the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France press freedom prize in 2006, U Win Tin was transferred yesterday from a Rangoon hospital back to his special cell in Insein prison, where he has been held since July 1989. He was hospitalised on 22 January for a hernia operation. Government officials visited him in hospital on 7 February and offered to release him if he resigned from the opposition National League for Democracy and agreed to abandon all other pro-democracy activism. The same offer has been made in the past and, again, U Win Tin turned it down.
Nay Phone Latt was transferred to Insein prison on 7 February following his arrest in Rangoon on 29 January and his indictment for threatening state security under Section 5J of the Emergency Provision Act of 1950. His relatives, who have not been able to visit him since his arrest, have been told that he has also been charged with violating a 1996 TV and video law (http://www.blc-burma.org/html/myanmar%20law/lr_e_ml96_08.html) imposing government control over all political content. It carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Nay Phone Latt’s family is very worried about the conditions in which he is being held. He has been placed in cell No. 2, which has no electricity or blankets and is one of the worst in the prison. It is in this cell that prisoners are held while awaiting execution. His trial is scheduled to start on 6 March.
The poet Saw Wai was transferred to Insein prison last month after being arrested for criticising the head of the junta, Gen. Than Shwe, in a coded message