Zaw Pe to be freed this weekend

Zaw Pe to be freed this weekend

DVB video-journalist Zaw Pe will be released from Thayat Prison on 6 July, after Magwe Divisional court on Thursday reduced his sentence from one year to three months.

The “special order” comes after Zaw Pe’s lawyer lodged an appeal at the court last week.

The DVB video-journalist was arrested in August 2012 and charged with  “trespassing” and “disturbing a civil servant on duty” as he attempted to conduct an interview at Magwe Education Office, accompanied by the parent of a student, Win Myint Hlaing. The pair were investigating irregularities in the awarding of local scholarships funded by Japanese aid. Zaw Pe began filming as Win Myint Hlaing, whose child had applied for a scholarship, questioned a local education official.

Win Myint Hlaing was also arrested and charged.

On 7 April, Zaw Pe and Win Myint Hlaing were found guilty on both counts and sentenced to serve two one-year sentences concurrently.

However they will walk free on Sunday, after lawyer Thein Tun put to Magwe divisional court that the two went to the office in 2012 as “journalists to simply enquire about a scholarship programme, but did not commit the offences the township court found them guilty of.”

Thein Tun told DVB on Thursday that he hopes their release could be further expedited.

“Magwe District Court revised the prison term of the DVB reporter and Win Myint Hlaing from one-year imprisonment to three months, said the lawyer.

“Magwe Region court issued a special order for Zaw Pe today. The sentence has been revised to three months and he will be released on time already served. He will therefore be released on the sixth. As the sixth is a Sunday, I’m hoping the pair will be released before the weekend.”

The news spells an end to Zaw Pe’s second stint in prison for reporting. In 2010, he was sentenced to three years in prison under the 1996 Television and Video Law for shooting video without a license. He was then reporting from Nat Mauk in central Burma, where residents were suffering from a water shortage. He served two years and five months, also in Thayat Prison, before being released on a good behaviour bond.

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Zaw Pe’s April sentencing came as a sharp reversion to previous gains for media freedom in Burma. The eradication of prepublication censorship and the organisation of independent press associations had revitalised the Burmese media community. However Zaw Pe’s imprisonment cast a dim light on Thein Sein’s promises of continuing media reform and set a series of local and international campaigns for press freedom in motion.

Now Zaw Pe will be reunited with his wife and young son.

Aung Thu Nyein, a close friend and working partner of Zaw Pe said he was elated by the news.

“I’m visiting Zaw Pe’s wife this afternoon to celebrate,” he said.  “We just can’t wait to see him.”

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