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Burma 22 October 2008

Newspaper reporter freed after being held for seven weeks

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association welcome the release yesterday evening of Saw Myint Than, the former chief correspondent of Flower News Journal, a privately-owned magazine. He was held for seven weeks without being tried and without having any chance to defend himself.

“We are relieved by Saw Myint Than’s release, just a few weeks after the release of U Win Tin, Burma’s longest-held political prisoner, who spent 19 years in detention,” the two organisations said. “But journalists continue to be arrested in Burma. One of the latest, Ohn Kyaing, who is a government opponent, was re-arrested on 1 October and is still being held.”

Saw Myint Than was arrested on 1 September, several days after being summoned to a police station for questioning about his coverage of a double murder. Officially, he was charged with violating the Electronics Law, which regulates all forms of electronic communication, and with violating an article in the criminal code that punishes criticism of the authorities.

The real reason for his arrest was probably the fact that he had answered questions about the police summons that had been put to him by a reporter with The Irrawaddy (www.irrawaddy.org), a Burmese exile magazine based in Thailand.

The Burmese authorities are meanwhile continuing to prevent the news media from covering the contaminated Chinese milk powder story and thereby alert the many people in Burma who buy Chinese milk powder because it is cheap. The media have been forced to ignore the case of a young girl who reportedly died in early October after consuming Chinese milk powder.

At the same time, the military government’s censorship office has censored nearly a third of the October issue of the humour monthly Pyaw Pyaw Shwin Shwin, which will delay its publication by two months. Most of the censored material was poems, which the authorities regard with suspicion as they are sometimes used to convey coded anti-government messages which the censors fail to decipher.




In this country
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Journalists trying to cover fate of Tamils are threatened, obstructed
28 May - Burma
Junta allows only one-sided coverage of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial
15 May - Burma
Growing restrictions on free flow of information
15 May - Burma
Sakharov Network calls for immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Sakharov Prize laureate 1990
29 January - Burma
Petition launched for release of two Burmese bloggers serving sentences of 20 and 59 years in prison

in the annual report
Burma - Annual report 2008
Burma - Annual report 2007
Burma - Annual report 2006

reports
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Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election
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Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
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