Assam scribes appeal for release of Burmese journalists
Posted on July 13th, 2014

By NJ Thakuria

Guwahati: Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA), a northeast India based scribes’ body, has expressed dissatisfaction over a verdict of a lower court in central Burma (Myanmar) to sentence five media employees, engaged with Unity Weekly News, a current-affairs magazine published Rangoon, for 10 years of imprisonment with hard labour.

The Pakokku township court has sentenced four journalists namely Lu Maw Naing (28), Sithu Soe (22), Yazar Oo (28) and Aung Thura (25) with a management official Tin Hsan (52) for publishing a report narrating a Burmese military division’s plant to manufacture chemical weapons, which the government has strongly denied.

The accused media employees are in military custody at Pakokku since their arrest by the police immediately after the publication of the news with photographs relating to the alleged chemical weapons factory in its 25 January 2014 edition, reports Burmese newspapers. “This is a very dark day for freedom of expression in Myanmar. These five media workers have done nothing but cover a story that is in the public interest,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia-Pacific director.

According to Reporters Without Borders/ Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), altogether 166 working journalists are serving imprisonment in various countries. The Paris based media rights body also revealed that China tops the list with 30 journalists sent to jail, followed by Eritrea (28), Iran (21), Syria (15), Ethiopia (9), Uzbekistan (9), Azerbaijan (8), Bahrain (5), Egypt (5), Cuba (3), Russia (3), Turkey (3), Vietnam (2), Saudi Arabia (2), Sudan (2), India (Sudhir Dhawle of Vidrohi and AS Mani of Netrikkan Naveena) etc.

The JFA, in a statement issued by its president Rupam Barua, argues that the Burmese government in Naypyitaw should offer clemency to the media employees for maintaining the spirit of democracy and journalism. Arguing the latest conviction of media persons for a news item as illogical, the JFA has urged the Myanmar President Thein Sein, who initiated to remove the censorship in Burmese media three years back, to take personal interest to resolve the matter. We support the spirit of every Burmese for transforming their country from the five-decade long military dictatorship to a Parliamentary democracy, and hence we expect due dignity for the media persons in Burma, which is adjacent to our region,” added the JFA statement.

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