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Burma 12 December 2008

Opposition journalist Ohn Kyaing freed after being held for six weeks

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association welcome yesterday’s release of Ohn Kyaing, a former journalist and member of the opposition National League for Democracy, who was arrested at his home on 1 October and held in Rangoon’s Insein prison.

“We are relieved to learn of Ohn Kyaing’s release,” the two organisations said. “There has been a wave of arrests of journalists and opposition members for the past six months. At least six journalists are currently in prison for covering the suffering of the victims of last May’s cyclone. They include the famous blogger and comedian Zarganar, who is serving a 59-year prison sentence in Myitkyina prison in the northern state of Kachin.”

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said Ohn Kyaing was in good shape and had returned to his home. “I am very happy that Ohn Kyaing was freed but it is very unfair that he was held in prison for such a long time without committing any crime,” Nyan Win said.

01/10 : Journalist and opposition member Ohn Kyaing arrested again

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association call for the immediate release of well-known former journalist Ohn Kyaing, who was arrested at his home yesterday. A member of the National League for Democracy, the main opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, he was freed in 2005 after spending 15 years in prison for writing “seditious pamphlets.”

“Despite last month’s release of about 9,000 detainees, including a handful of political prisoners, the military regime continues to arrest opposition members,” the two organisations said. “Once again, a journalist and government opponent has been detained for no apparent reason. It will be an outrage if he is sent back to prison for helping Cyclone Nargis victims, as it would be punishing humanitarian activity.”

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said Ohn Kyaing was arrested yesterday by police who went to his home. He told the Associated Press the reasons for the arrest were still not known, but he pointed that Ohn Kyaing had been very involved in efforts to help the survivors of Nargis, the cyclone that devastated Burma in May.

Now aged 64, Ohn Kyaing used to write articles under the pen-name of Aung Wint for such newspapers as Hanthawathi and Botahtaung, which fired him at the government’s behest. He jointed the NLD after a long career in journalism and won a parliamentary seat in the 1990 elections, which were swept by the NLD but were never recognised by the military regime.

Arrested in September 1990 by the Military Intelligence Service, he was sentenced to 17 years in prison for “writing and distributing seditious pamphlets” and “threatening the security of the state.” He was finally released on 3 January 2005.

U Win Tin, another former journalist and NLD supporter who was himself released just nine days ago after 19 years in detention, described Ohn Kyaing’s arrest as “not unusual and something we have to expect.” He added that Ohn Kyaing was “a close colleague, a good friend and a highly qualified man.”

Blogger and comedian Zarganar and sports journalist Zaw Thet Htwe were previously charged with disturbing public order for helping Cyclone Nargis victims and criticising the government’s relief efforts.

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