Burmese reporter receives 20-year sentence

Jan 6, 2010 (DVB), A Burmese reporter who contributed video material to the Democratic Voice of Burma has been handed a 20-year prison sentence, bringing to 13 the number of imprisoned journalists in Burma.

The news was met with outrage by leading international media watchdog, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), and the Burma Media Association (BMA).

"People had been expecting signs of an opening and goodwill gestures from the military junta in this election year, but this extremely severe sentence on a 25-year-old video maker and the junta chief's recent threatening comments leave little hope that the elections will be free," the two organisations said in a statement.

Hla Hla Win was first arrested in September 2009, and in October was given a seven-year sentence. Then on 31 December, she was found guilty of violating the Electronics Act, often used by the junta to imprison video reporters, and handed a further 20 years.

A colleague she was with at the time, Myint Naing, was also arrested, and has been given a 26-year sentence.

Hla Hla Win's imprisonment follows on from the arrest of DVB cameraman, 'T', who filmed the aftermath of cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

The footage was made into the documentary, Orphans of Burma's Cyclone, although T was subsequently arrested and is now standing trial, and faces a maximum sentence of 15 years.

The military government in Burma is expected to intensify harassment and imprisonment of opposition in the run-up to elections this year. Already, 2,177 activists, journalists, politician and lawyers are serving lengthy prison sentences, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP).

Junta chief Than Shwe on Monday warned people to make the "correct choices" when voting in the elections, although he is yet to announce a date for polling.

Burma ranked 171 out of 175 countries in RSF's Press Freedom Index 2009, and has been cited by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as the world's "worst country to be a blogger".

Reporting by Francis Wade

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