Rights group decries jailing of Myanmar reporter

April 12, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

YANGON: Reporters Without Borders said yesterday it was “outraged” by the imprisonment of a Myanmar journalist for trying to interview an education official, as local newspapers ran black front pages in protest.

Zaw Pe, a journalist for the Democratic Voice of Burma news website, was convicted by a court in the central town of Magway on Monday for “disturbing a civil servant” and trespassing.

He was jailed along with Win Myint Hlaing, the father of a student who accompanied him during a visit to the local education department about a story on a scholarship programme in 2012.

“It is unacceptable that local officials can obstruct a journalist’s work and have him sentenced to imprisonment just because they feel he disturbed them,” Reporters Without Borders,  Asia-Pacific head Benjamin Ismail said.  

“We call on the local authorities to release Zaw Pe and we ask the government to ensure that media freedom is respected equally everywhere.”

Myanmar ranked 145th out of 180 countries in the latest RSF press freedom index, reflecting “substantial” improvements under the country’s quasi-civilian regime. But the media watchdog warned that the reform process was beginning to “flag.”

Myanmar journalists have staged rallies against the sentencing this week, while several newspapers yesterday ran black sections across their front pages to register their dismay.

The outspoken Daily Eleven Newspaper said it was “denouncing the unfair arrest, investigation and jailing of journalists.”

Both men are planning to appeal their sentences, according to their lawyer Thein Tun.

DVB was a prominent source of independent information during Myanmar’s long years of junta rule, when it operated from Norway and Thailand. 

At that time several of its journalists were given lengthy prison sentences for covertly reporting within the country.