IFEX APPEAL TO RELEASE JAILED BURMESE JOURNALIST

9 June 2004

We call on the Malaysian government to release Burmese journalist Sein Mar. She is being held in a Malaysian jail after being arrested at a demonstration outside the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on 17 May 2004.

Sein Mar, editor of the newsletter Yaung Chee Oo, has been denied bail twice by the Malaysian courts and is being detained without having been charged. She has been given UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) refugee status.

According to local news reports, she was detained with 22 supporters of the Democratic Federation of Burma and National League for Democracy during the demonstration. They were protesting a national convention held in Rangoon by the ruling military junta to formulate a new constitution.

Sein Mar was released two days later on police bail as she has a seven-year-old daughter with her. She was allowed to stay with her daughter under the care of the UNHCR. When she was brought to court on 25 May, the case was postponed to 14 June as an interpreter was not available. Her bail was denied and she was sent to the Kajang Prison, while her child was placed in the care of the UNHCR.

When Sein Mar reappeared in court, again the case was postponed for another two weeks for the same reason. The prosecutors have required more than a month to decide whether to charge or to release Sein Mar and her fellow detainees.

More recently, Burmese journalist Ko Minn Kyaw Minn was abducted and held for 12 hours on 1 June 2004. He was beaten and denied food and water. There is reason to believe that Burmese and Malaysian security forces coordinated the abduction. This is a worrying development, obviously detrimental to the right to freedom of expression held by the nationals of both countries.

We join Reporters Without Borders, the Burma Media Association and Malaysia’s Charter 2000-Aliran in calling on the Malaysian government to release Sein Mar immediately to show that it fully respects international standards on free expression.

Signed,

Cartoonists Rights Network
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies
Central Asia and Southern Caucusus Free Expression Network
Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia
Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations
Freedom of Expression Institute
Freedom House
Fundaci?n para la Libertad de Prensa
Independent Journalism Center, Moldova
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists
International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech “Adil Soz”
Internews Uzbekistan
Journaliste en danger
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Norwegian PEN
PERIODISTAS
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Thai Journalists Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
AMARC Asia Pacific
World Press Freedom Committee

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Background Information
1. The local police have recently pledged to improve the remand process. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has also recommended that detainees should not be unduly remanded or detained for longer than 24 hours.
2. The Malaysian government has not signed the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, and does not recognise refugee status within the country.

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