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Apr 3, 2009 (DVB), A researcher from a prominent exiled lawyers' organisation has said that the charges handed down by judges to two journalists recently were in breach of Burmese law.
The two journalists, Eint Khin Oo and Kyat Kyat Thant, from Ecovision and Weekly Eleven journal respectively, were arrested in June last year and sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour. They had been collecting news and assisting victims of cyclone Nargis.
U Myo, from Burmese Lawyers Council, said that the charges they were sentenced under were not attributable to their circumstances.
"Section 505(b) of the Penal Code, under which Ma Eint Khaing Oo and Ko Kyaw Kyaw Thant were charged, stated that the law is allegeable to 'whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report' with an intent to cause public alarm," he said.
"But the two were arrested while collecting news so they were definitely not allegeable for it."
He also stated that Kyaw Kyaw Thant's charge under the Immigration Act was illegal given that the law is only attributable to foreigners. Furthermore, he said, use of section 505(b) can only be carried out with a court order.
"In Ma Eint Khaing Oo's case, the police brought her to court in handcuffs before they opened trial. [Her] case showed that judges from the court had broken the law themselves."
A number of Burmese journalists and activists have been sentenced in connection with their work in the aftermath of cyclone Nargis.
Renowned comedian and activist, Zarganar, was sentenced in June 2008 to 59 years imprisonment (later reduced to 35 year) for activities including speaking to foreign media following the cyclone.
Six members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions are currently on trial under charges of sedition for collecting and burying corpses in the aftermath of the cyclone.
Min Thein Tun, who helped coordinate relief efforts over the internet from Malaysia was sentenced to 17 years on 11 March under the Electronics Act, Unlawful Associations Act and Immigration Act.
In February, Eint Khaing Oo was honored in absentia with the first Kenji Nagai Award, named after the Japanese photojournalist killed by the military during the monk-led protests in September 2007.
Reporting by Aye Nai