Zaw Pe transferred to Thayet prison

Zaw Pe, DVB’s Magwe correspondent, has been transferred to Thayet prison in Magwe Division after being sentenced to one year in prison.

His wife and young son were there to say goodbye.

In August 2012, Zaw Pe and a father of a student, Win Myint Hlaing, were charged with trespassing and disturbing a civil servant after they visited the Magwe Division Education Department to conduct an interview about a Japanese-funded scholarship programme.

On 7 April, Magwe Township Court found the two men guilty and sentenced them each to one year in prison.

During the transfer to Thayet prison Zaw Pe told DVB that this verdict would compromise the integrity of journalists.

“As a journalist, it is my job to interview, whether it’s the government or a civil society organisation. Prosecuting journalists for trespassing and disturbing civil servants will prevent them from approaching government offices in the future. It will compromise the balance of news,” he said.

Well-known activist and member of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society,

Min Ko Naing, said that jailing journalists raises questions about the legitimacy of the country’s reform process.

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“A journalist should not be sued for trespassing for visiting a government venue to conduct an interview,” he said. “Throwing the book at someone for a personal feud can cripple the work of journalism and push the media back into the oppressed state it was in the past. This makes me question the democratic reforms in the country.”

The international community and members of national and international media have condemned Zaw Pe’s sentence.

In the past year several journalists have been jailed on spurious charges. In December 2013 a reporter from Eleven Media Group was sentenced to three months in prison for trespassing.

In February, four staffers and the CEO of Unity Weekly journal were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act after publishing a report on an alleged chemical weapons factory being built by the army in Magwe Division.

While the government says it is committed to reform Zaw Pe’s sentencing questions the sincerity of new media freedoms.

 

Correction: DVB originally reported that Thayet prison is in Mandalay Division, however the correct area is Magwe Division.

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