3 December 2003
Source: Reporters sans frontier (RSF), Paris
RSF and the Burma Media Association (BMA) have voiced outrage over the death sentences passed by a military court on 28 November 2003 against sports journalist Zaw Thet Htway and eight other persons for allegedly trying to kill members of Burma’s military junta.
“Your government has once again shown its criminal attitude towards journalists who refuse to comply with orders,” the two organisations said in a joint letter to the prime minister, General Khin Nyunt. “We challenge you to provide evidence of the journalist’s implication in a coup attempt,” the organisations added.
Zaw Thet Htway, editor-in-chief of “First Eleven Sports Journal”, and eight other persons were convicted and sentenced to death by a Rangoon military court under Article 122/1 of the Law on High Treason for allegedly trying to murder leaders of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, the ruling junta). The other convicted individuals are lawyer Aye Myint, Zaw Zaw, Zar Naing Htun, Ne Win, Shwe Mann, Than Htun, Myo Htway and Nai Min Kyi. The last public execution in Burma was in 1988, according to “Irrawaddy” magazine.
All nine individuals were arrested on 17 July by Military Intelligence (MI) personnel. Zaw Thet Htway was arrested at the “First Eleven Sports Journal” office in Rangoon. Four other journalists who work for the magazine were also detained for several days.
Colonel San Pwint, a member of the military junta, announced on 26 July that the security services had thwarted a planned series of bombings in which 12 suspects were implicated, including Zaw Thet Htway. They were also accused of having contacts with political organisations in exile.
A former political prisoner, Zaw Thet Htway already served a four-year prison sentence in the early 1990s for his activities as a member of the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), and he was reportedly tortured during his interrogation.
The editor-in-chief’s arrest in July is thought to have been prompted by a report in “First Eleven Sports Journal” raising questions about the use of an international donation of US$4 million to promote football in Burma.
Shortly thereafter, “First Eleven Sports Journal” carried a report about a fine imposed by the organisers of an Asian football tournament (the Asian Champion Club) on a Burmese team that failed to take part in the tournament. “First Eleven Sports Journal” is the country’s most widely-read sports magazine, with a circulation of 50,000 copies.
On 24 July, the military junta denied the claims of RSF and the BMA that Zaw Thet Htway’s arrest was linked to his work as a journalist.
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