New York, January 7, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the harsh sentencing of Hla Hla Win, a broadcast journalist with the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB). She was sentenced to 20 years in prison on December 30 for violating the vague and draconian Electronic Act.
Hla Hla Win was first arrested on September 11, 2009, on her
way back from a DVB reporting assignment in Pakokku Township,
Magwe Division, where she had conducted interviews with Buddhist monks in a
local monastery. According to her editors at DVB, at the time of her arrest she
was working on a story pegged to the second anniversary of the 2007 Saffron
Revolution, in which Buddhist monks rose up against the Burma’s military-run
government in countrywide protests that were finally violently suppressed.
On October 6, a Pakokku
Township court sentenced
Hla Hla Win and her assistant, Myint Naing, to seven years in prison for using
an illegally imported motorcycle. After interrogations in prison, they were
both subsequently charged with violating Section 33 of the Electronic Act, which
forbids unauthorized use
of electronic media and is increasingly used by the regime to
punish journalists and activists for sending information out of the country,
including over the Internet.
Hla Hla Win now faces a combined 27 years in prison for her
reporting activities. She joined DVB as
an undercover reporter in December 2008. According to her editors she played an
active role in covering various issues considered sensitive to the government,
including local reaction to last year’s controversial trail of detained
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
military government says that it is moving toward democracy, but at the same time
continues to punish journalists with harsh sentences,” said CPJ’s Southeast Asia senior representative Shawn Crispin. “Before the international community
rewards the regime for holding ostensibly democratic elections this year, it
should demand demonstrable progress on press freedom, including the
unconditional release of Hla Hla Win.”
The military government has promised general elections this
year, but has not set a specific date.
At least nine journalists were imprisoned in Burma when CPJ conducted
its worldwide survey of jailed journalists on December 1. The figure for Burma may have
been higher if several undercover reporters who were arrested and detained in
the wake of the Saffron Revolution were taken into account.
Exile-run media groups told CPJ that a number of their
jailed reporters preferred to remain anonymous because of fears that the
authorities would extend their prison sentences if it was discovered that they
had sent news, pictures, and videos to news outlets outside the country. The
DVB estimated that 14 of its undercover reporters were being held in detention
as of December 2009. International rights groups estimate that there are more
than 2,000 political prisoners being held across the country.