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.