U Win Tin, former editor-in-chief of the daily Hanthawati, turned 77 on Monday. He is one of the longest serving detained journalists in the world and among at least six journalists currently detained in Burma. The journalist has had at least two heart attacks and has suffered from high blood pressure, a degenerative spine condition, and diabetes since his 1989 internment related to involvement in the opposition National League of Democracy, according to the Burma Media Association (BMA), a network of Burmese journalists working in exile.
While he has been eligible for early release since July 2006, BMA sources said a jail warden recently told U Win Tin that he was not entitled for early release because he had not performed hard labor.
“It is an outrage that an ailing, seventy-seven-year-old man be kept behind bars and denied early release because he cannot perform ’hard labor,’” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We demand the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague U Win Tin.”
U Win Tin has repeatedly refused to sign a letter promising to give up political activities as a condition of his release. In July 2006, he was originally included in a group of 118 political prisoners tapped for early release from Insein Prison. After gathering his personal belongings and meeting with prison authorities, he was the only one of the group not to be released.