Writer Freed in Burma After 19 Years, but Junta Maintains Hard Line

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release of writer and editor U Win Tin after 19 years’ detention in a jail in Burma, but deplores the military regime’s continuing detention of other writers and political prisoners.

U Win Tin, a retired journalist, was the longest serving political prisoner in Burma. He was arrested on July 4, 1989, and sentenced to 20 years’ jail accused of “anti-government propaganda”.

Now aged in his 70s, U Win Tin was released on September 23 after Burma’s junta granted an amnesty to about 9000 prisoners for “good behaviour”, according to state media.

Five other political prisoners were also reportedly freed, including another well-known writer, U Aung Soe Myint, and four members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), according to the Irrawaddy News.

U Win Tin was formerly the editor of the Hanthawaddy newspaper and vice-chairman of the Burma Writers’ Union. He was a founder of the NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, which won elections in 1989 but which was prevented from taking power.

In 2001, he was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for his efforts to defend and promote freedom of expression.  He was also awarded the World Association of Newspapers Golden Pen of Freedom Award the same year.

“U Win Tin, like many others in Burma, was wrongly imprisoned and his freedom has been far too long in coming,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

“The IFJ welcomes his release, but unfortunately it is not evidence of a change in the mindset of Burma’s generals who continue to detain other writers and critics, to enforce strict censorship and to violate the rights of all people in Burma to express their views freely.”

U Win Tin’s release comes almost a year to the day after Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai was shot dead by a Burmese soldier as he reported on anti-government demonstrations in Rangoon on September 27, 2007.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries