World’s Press Calls for Release of Burmese Journalist

The World Association of Newspapers and World Editors Forum have asked the government of Burma to release the country’s longest serving political prisoner, journalist U Win Tin, on the anniversary of his imprisonment 19 years ago.

U Win Tin, 78, is suffering from lung problems and severe asthma. He has suffered two heart attacks and has high blood pressure, diabetes and a prostate gland disorder.

“The continued imprisonment of U Win Tin constitutes a deep blemish on the international standing of Myanmar (Burma) which can only be erased by his release,” WAN and WEF said in a letter to General Than Shwe, leader of the ruling junta.

U Win Tin, former editor-in-chief of the Hanthawaddy newspaper, co-founder of the National League of Democracy and winner of WAN’s 2001 Golden Pen of Freedom, was imprisoned on 4 July 1989. He was tried in a closed military court and originally sentenced to 14 years of prison for allegedly being a member of the banned Communist Party. The sentence has since been increased to 21 years. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence for sending testimony to the United Nations about the human rights violations of political prisoners.

“We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to call on you once again to release journalist U Win Tin, who will have spent 19 years in jail on 4 July and is suffering from serious ill health.

“U Win Tin, former editor-in-chief of Hanthawaddy newspaper and winner of WAN’s 2001 Golden Pen of Freedom, was originally imprisoned on 4 July 1989. He is now 78 years old and suffers from lung problems and severe asthmatic attacks which prevent him from sleeping and eating properly. He has also had two heart attacks and a hernia operation, and also suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and a prostate gland disorder.

“U Win Tin, who is the country’s longest serving political prisoner, was tried in a closed military court and sentenced to 14 years of prison for allegedly being a member of the banned Communist Party of Myanmar. This sentence has since been increased to 21 years in jail. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence for sending testimony to the UN about the human rights violations of political prisoners.

“The continued imprisonment of U Win Tin constitutes a deep blemish on the international standing of Myanmar which can only be erased by his release. Furthermore, his detention constitutes a clear breach of his right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions and we remind you that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers that “detention, as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion, is one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and, as a consequence, a grave violation of human rights.”

“We respectfully but urgently call on your government to demonstrate strength and compassion by releasing U Win Tin immediately. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience ,” the letter from WAN and WEF said.

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.

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