it's a spirit that will now be annually memorialized through the new
Kenji Nagai Award, which was bestowed for the first time to imprisoned
Burmese journalist Eine Khine Oo during the sixth annual Burma Media
Association (BMA) conference held in
, on February 21.
newly launched press freedom award is co-sponsored by the Tokyo-based
APF News and BMA. Each year it will recognize a Burmese journalist who
has been harassed, arrested or killed for reporting in the country's
highly restricted media environment, BMA's vice president Zin Linn,
video montage prepared by APF to inaugurate the award showed clips of
Nagai's frontline reporting from the occupied Palestinian territory, Iraq, and Burma, as well as posthumous images of his desk in Tokyo
overflowing with flowers of condolence. A rock-and-roll song Nagai
composed, entitled "See you," was played as part of the video's score.
of his editors noted that despite repeated requests Burmese authorities
have failed to return the camera Nagai was holding when he died.
This year's Kenji Nagai Award recipient, Eine Khine Oo, a 25-year-old reporter with Ecovision Journal,
was arrested on June 10, 2008, while photographing a demonstration of
Cyclone Nargis victims held outside the United Nations Development
Program office in Rangoon's Tamwe Township.
military regime came under heavy international press criticism for its
initial slow and some alleged corrupt response to the natural disaster,
which according to United Nations estimates killed more than 84,000
people. Inside the country, press coverage was heavily censored and
prominently featured television images of military officials
distributing aid to victims.
Khine Oo's coverage of protests by neglected victims threatened to
expose that varnished account and after her arrest military officials
accused her of taking photographs with the intent to distribute to
media groups based outside the country. One measure of her journalistic
dedication, said Zin Linn, was that her clothes were soaked with rain
at the time of her arrest.
was detained without charge for more than five months before a Burmese court
ruled in a closed-door trial last November that she violated section
505/B of the penal code, which covers charges of incitement. She has
since been held incommunicado. Radio Free Asia
reporter Ma Su Mon Aye accepted the award, which includes a $1,000 grant, on Eine Khine Oo's behalf.
arrest was unjust because she was just doing her job," said Ma Su Mon
Aye. "We ask the military to release her as soon as possible."
According to CPJ research, Burma
is the third worst jailer of journalists in the world, with at least 14
reporters, including Eine Khine Oo, behind bars as of December 1 last
(Reporting from Chiang Mai, Thailand