Burmese government axed on free flow of information, sending three opposition supporters to jail

14 July 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

A few days after it has released over 200 political prisoners including two journalists, Burma’s military junta axed censorship on free flow of information by throwing three more supporters of opposition party to jail for possessing and consuming “unauthorised” information.

On 8 July, the Shwebo district court in Northern Burma sentenced Dr Win Aung, Khinoo township leader of opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), and Khin Maung Win, an NLD supporter, to 10-year imprisonment each and Soe Win Aung, a high school teacher, for 3-years imprisonment, according to Mizzima.com, a Delhi-based Burmese news website.

Miizzima.com reported on 9 July that the three were earlier arrested on charges of possessing and watching VCD of opposition leader Suu Kyi’s political tour to the provinces in Northern Burma in 2003 under 1996 Television and Video Act, and of reading unlicensed books about late General Ne Win and “Who Killed Aung San?”, written by exiled authors under Act 1962 Printers and Publisher Registration Act.

Two other Burmese were also arrested in connection with the acts but later released after standing as witness for the prosecutors, said the report.

It said the CD and the books were believed to have passed to others by Dr. Win Aung. Win Aung was once arrested in May 30, 2003 following the brutal massacre in a Northern town of Burma and was sentenced to jail along with NLD vice-chairman Tin Oo. He was released on January 16, 2004.

On 6 July, the military junta released a total of 249 political prisoners including freelance journalist Sein Hla Oo and documentary film maker Aung Pwint. The move was cautiously welcomed by international human rights and media advocacy groups, which pressed for the release of all other political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The much-anticipated release of well-known journalist Win Tin was thwarted when the 75-year-old veteran was not among the 249 set free. Reports suggested he was tricked to go back into prison cell as he and the others were waiting in the prison’s front building for a minister of home affairs’ address.

Background

Both television and publication acts are instrumental to official censorship to curb the availability of independent information. The laws make it compulsory for all television and video materials as well as publications to be approved by concerned Burmese authorities before public release.

Information regularly banned include natural disasters, the AIDS epidemic, human rights, Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention and her political movement, debates about government policies, poor local economic conditions or any other news that the government might regard as unflattering.

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