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Burma 29 January 2009

Petition launched for release of two Burmese bloggers serving sentences of 20 and 59 years in prison

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Nay Phone Latt

Reporters Without Borders urges the international community not to forget Nay Phone Latt (http://www.nayphonelatt.net/), a Burmese blogger who was arrested exactly one year ago today and was sentenced on 10 November to 20 years and six months in prison, or Zarganar, one of Burma’s best known comedians, who is serving a 59-year jail sentence in appalling conditions for criticising the military government online.

“On this sad anniversary for Nay Phone Latt, we are launching petition for his and Zarganar’s release,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They did nothing to deserve these punishments and must be freed. Nay Phone Latt’s only crime was to be caught in possession of a film regarded as subversive by the military government. Zarganar was convicted solely for expressing his views.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Their trials were farces organised by special courts that take their orders directly from the government. The international community, especially UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, who is due to visit Burma shortly, need to pay close attention to what is going on.”

Aged 28, Nay Phone Latt was arrested on 29 January 2008 with several members of the opposition National League for Democracy, who were released a few hours later. He received a combined jail sentence of 20 years and six months on 10 November from a special court inside Insein prison that was headed by judge Daw Soe Nyaam.

The sentence consisted of two years for violating article 505 (b) of the Criminal Code (which punishes defamation of the state), three years and six months for violating article 32 (b) of the Video Act and 15 years for violating article 33 (a) of the Electronic Act. He is suffering from eye problems but has not been allowed to see a doctor. He is due for release in 2028.

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Zarganar

Zarganar, who kept a blog that was widely read by Burmese Internet users both in Burma and abroad, was arrested on 5 June 2008 for writing in his blog about the widespread criticism of the government’s relief efforts after the country was devastated by a cyclone the previous month. Sentenced to 45 years in prison under the Electronic Act by the Insein prison court on 21 November 2008, he was given an additional 14-year jail sentence for unspecified “offences” six days later. He is due to be released in 2067.

Nay Phone Latt and Zarganar were awarded a special press freedom prize by Reporters Without Borders on 4 December.

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