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Junta continues suppressing freedom of expression: Media Watchdogs


New Delhi (Mizzima) - An international and a Burmese press freedom watchdogs on Friday condemned Burma’s military regime for a recent arrest of journalists and bloggers and reminded the international community not to neglect the regime’s continued suppression of freedom of expression.

Paris-based Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) and its partner, Burma Media Association (BMA), in a press statement, expressed concern for the recently arrested Burmese blogger Win Zaw Naing, saying he is facing a possible 15 years jail sentence for posting pictures of the 2007 September protests in the military-ruled Southeast Asian nation.

Win Zaw Naing, age 24, has been held for the past several weeks by police in the Kyauktada Township of Rangoon and has not been allowed to see a lawyer, the two organisations said.

“He was arrested under article 33 (A) of the Electronic Act, which provides for sentences of up to 15 years in prison,” added the statement.

“The international community is so absorbed by diplomatic strategies aimed at resolving the Burmese crisis that it seems to be neglecting the fact that the military government is continuing its repression and is still arresting journalists, bloggers and human rights activists,” the two organisations said.

The two groups urged, “The release of prisoners of conscience should continue to be a major priority for the international community.”

According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPPB), over 2,000 prisoners of conscience continue to be lingering in prisons across the country.

Sources in Rangoon told Mizzima several journalists as well as humanitarian workers, who were involved in relief and rehabilitation of victims of Cyclone Nargis, which stormed in to Burma’s Southern coastal region of the Irrawaddy delta, leaving at least 140,000 deaths and missing in May 2008.

RSF and BMA also said, it has confirmed that four journalists - Paing Soe Oo, a freelancer known by the pen-name of Jay Paing; Thant Zin Soe, who works for Foreign Affairs Journal; Nyi Nyi Htun, a freelancer known by the pen-name of Mee-doke; and Khant Min Htet, a poet and graphic designer – were also arrested.

Sources close to Jay Paing told Mizzima that with no official notifications, they are still unaware of the whereabouts of the missing journalists.

According to the RSF and BMA, Win Zaw Naing, a resident of Hlaing Tharyar Township and working as a typist at a Rangoon publishing house, was arrested for posting photos and pictures of the September 2007 protests, which is dubbed by activists as ‘Saffron Revolution’, on his blog.

The two group said, despite of the military junta’s claim of conducting a free and fair and credible elections in 2010, which would be Burma’s first ever poll in 20 years, the continued arrest of journalists, bloggers and human rights activists are clear indications that the junta is not interested in making the polls free and fair.

“Without the freedom to inform others, next year’s elections will be neither free nor fair,” the two groups said.

Burma’s military rulers, who had refused to honor the results of the country’s last elections in 1990, has announced that it is all set to hold general elections in 2010 as part of its roadmap to democracy that will elect a civilian government.

The junta, which came into power in 1988 after crushing student-led pro-democracy uprising, promised that it will conduct next year’s polls in a free and fair manner.

The United States, the West and human rights campaigners has said the polls in 2010 cannot be consider credible and free and fair unless thejunta release all political prisoners including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and allow them to freely participate in the polls.

Burma has been ruled by military dictators since 1962.

 

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