Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Burma police free local journalist

Burma – Police in Myanmar have released a magazine journalist detained for almost two months on suspicion of providing news to an exile-run Web site known for its sometimes critical coverage of the country's ruling military junta, the freed man's colleagues said Wednesday. All daily newspapers and electronic media inside Myanmar are state-run, and privately owned magazines are subject to tight censorship. Many people depend on getting uncensored news from abroad, from Web sites, satellite television and shortwave radio.

Colleagues of Saw Myint Than, chief reporter at the Flower News journal, said he was freed Monday after police determined he had not provided information to The Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based Web site run by Myanmar exiles. Saw Myint Than was arrested on Sept. 1 on a charge of violating the Electronics Law, which regulates all forms of electronic communication and carries a maximum five-year prison term.

One colleague, who insisted on anonymity to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities, said that Saw Myint Than had lost weight during his detention but was determined to continue work with the magazine. Police with responsibility for commenting on the case could not immediately be contacted. "He was questioned if he has contacts with The Irrawaddy and how he had been reporting to the exile media," said his colleague.

The police apparently were suspicious because details about a murder investigation Saw Myint Than was reporting on appeared on The Irrawaddy shortly afterward. They concluded after an investigation that he had not provided the information to the publication. Saw Myint Than was first held in a police detention center and was later moved to the notorious Insein Prison on the outskirts of Yangon, the country's biggest city. Most prominent political prisoners are held there.

The Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that it welcomed Saw Myint Than's release, but noted that journalists continue to be arrested in the military-ruled country.
On the Net:

No comments: