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DVB video journalist Zaw Pe, who was sentenced to one year in prison on 7 April, has been included in a list of “100 information heroes” compiled by international watchdog Reporters Without Borders ahead of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.
“Zaw Phay [Zaw Pe] is an experienced journalist who started out as a clandestine video reporter for Democratic Voice of Burma [DVB] during the Saffron Revolution in 2007,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He is also a former political prisoner who was given a three-year jail sentence in 2010 for filming ‘without permission’ while investigating a water shortage in Nat Mauk, in the central Magwe region.
“Released in a January 2012 amnesty, he went back to work at once. His journalistic dedication got him into trouble a few months later when he investigated a Japanese-funded scholarship programme in Magwe. A local education department official filed a complaint accusing him of trespassing on government property and disturbing a civil servant in the course of his duties. In April 2014, almost two years after the complaint, Zaw Phay was sentenced to a year in prison under articles 448 and 353 of the penal code.”
Since his sentencing, colleagues and international media groups have flocked to support Zaw Pe, and he is now the focus of campaigns organised by Amnesty International, Burma Campaign UK, and US Campaign for Burma.
According to DVB Rangoon bureau chief Toe Zaw Latt, “DVB is confident that reporter Zaw Pe was fulfilling his responsibility as a news reporter to inquire about a scholarship programme at the Magwe Township Education Department, which was in the public interest and therefore we completely denounce his sentencing.
“Despite all the government officials’ pledges of press reform, we believe the jailing of Zaw Pe is an obstacle to media freedom in the country, and we call for the unconditional release of the reporter and his co-defendant.”
Others included in the “100 information heroes” list were Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the US journalists responsible for revealing mass electronic surveillance methods used by the US and British intelligence.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders said, “Through their courageous work or activism, these ‘100 heroes’ help to promote the freedom enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the freedom to ‘seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. They put their ideals in the service of the common good. They serve as examples.”