Burma ‘fourth biggest jail’ for journalists

Burma is the world’s fourth-highest jailer of media workers, according to figures released by a New York-based press safety watchdog.

Except for Eritrea, which is placed third with 17, Burma has one of the highest numbers of imprisoned journalists relative to its population. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) puts Burma’s figure at 13, while China and Iran each have 34.

The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide has risen by nine since last year and now stands at 145, a 14-year high, with 28 countries guilty of harsh treatment of media workers.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon called the increase a “shocking development… fuelled largely by a small handful of countries that systematically jail journalists –countries that are at war with information itself”.

The Thailand-based Burma Media Association (BMA) however puts the figure at 22, and among these are 17 DVB journalists. A father and son who were arrested in April after photographing the aftermath of the Rangoon bombings are the latest to have admitted to being DVB staff.

According to DVB Deputy Editor, Khin Maung Win, the son, 21-year-old Sithu Zeya, had been tortured into revealing that his father, Maung Maung Zeya, was also a reporter for the Oslo-based media organisation.

Khin Maung Win added that authorities had offered to free Maung Maung Zeya if he divulged the names of other undercover DVB reporters. The two are being held in Rangoon’s Insein prison while they await a verdict.

CPJ last year branded Burma as the ‘worst country to be a blogger’, while the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres ranked it 171 out of 175 countries in its latest Press Freedom Index.

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