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Burma 11 March 2003

Leading journalist Win Tin "celebrates" 73rd birthday in detention

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) and the Burma Media Association (BMA) today reiterated their call for the release on medical grounds of detained journalist Win Tin, who will celebrate his 73rd birthday tomorrow (12 March) in Rangoon General hospital, where he has taken for treatment for heart problems three and half months ago.

One of the country’s best-known journalists and a member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), Win Tin has spent the last 13 years of his life in prison. Reporters Without Borders and the BMA fear his already fragile health would get worse if he were sent back to prison from hospital, and they therefore hope the Burmese authorities will show some compassion.

The two organisations stressed that they oppose any lifting of political or economic sanctions against the Burmese government until all political prisoners are released and press censorship ends.

Win Tin was transferred from prison to Rangoon general hospital on 22 November 2002 and since then has been confined to one of the 15-square-metre rooms for political prisoners in the hospital’s basement. A doctor examines him every day and he receives medicines that are appropriate for his condition.

A delegation from Amnesty International, making its first ever fact-finding mission to Burma at the military junta’s invitation, visited Win Tin in his hospital room on 5 February. They were able to talk for more than an hour. On its return to Europe, the delegation reported that Win Tin’s morale was excellent and that his state of health was reasonable. He is nonetheless also suffering from urinary problems.

The former editor of the newspaper Hanthawadi and vice-president of the Association of Burmese Writers, Win Tin has been detained since 4 July 1989. He has been convicted and sentenced three times to a total of 20 years in prison. One of the convictions was for sending the UN special rapporteur for Burma a report on the conditions of detention and the ill-treatment of inmates in Insein prison.

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