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Burma 1 April 2004

Burmese journalist Kyi Tin Oo free after 10 years

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association welcomed the release of Burmese journalist and poet Kyi Tin Oo after more than ten years in jail, but expressed concern about his state of health and of those still in prison.

The 60-year-old journalist said after his release on 26 March 2004, "I need to rest at home for a while because my health is still fragile. I want to get myself into better physical condition so that I can visit my son in prison. We haven’t seen one another for six years," he told reporters on the newspaper Democratic Voice of Burma.

Kyi Tin Oo is suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure. He underwent an operation on his legs a few months ago but they have not healed properly because of his diabetes and poor prison conditions.

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association have both deplored the fact that, not content with failing to respect free expression - by throwing political opponents in prison for years - the Burmese authorities then leave them to die by inches in appalling prison conditions.

"I should be happy, but I am sad," said Kyi Tin Oo, as he left prison. "I have seen the suffering of all these people with my own eyes and I would like to see all political prisoners amnestied."

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association support his appeal and call on the Burmese authorities to include a general amnesty for political prisoners in their "road map to democracy".

The journalist and poet was sentenced in March 1994 to ten years in prison. He had been accused of writing political articles in the monthly Moe Wai (closed for financial reasons in 1996) and the magazine Tha-bin, banned in 1988. According to one journalist who is now living in exile in Thailand, "Kyi Tin Oo was known in journalistic circles for his columns on everyday life in Burma. He wrote lyrical articles full of compassion for those who suffer".

Kyi Tin Oo is married to Daw Than Yi, writer and librarian. They have four children. One of his sons, Aung Kyaw Hein, is serving a 14-year sentence for membership of a banned student movement. Held in the same jail for some of the time, the father and son were separated six years ago.

Kyi tin Oo was jailed for three years in the 1960s, then for seven years between 1978 and 1985 and for a few months after the 1988 coup.

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