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Appeal lodged for jailed DVB reporter

An appeal for a Democratic Voice Burma video reporter sentenced late last year to 27 years in prison will be heard next week by a Magwe divisional court.

Hla Hla Win and her companion, Myint Naing, were arrested in September 2009 after filming interviews with monks in Pakokku monastery, Magwe division, and sentenced under the Video Act and the Electronics Act. Myint Naing was given 26 years.

In the appeal, submitted on 8 March, their lawyers argued that the charges were false. The court agreed to hear the appeal and set the date for 22 March, according to defence lawyer, Myint Thwin. He added that the verdict would likely be given in April.

Hla Hla Win’s sentencing, and the subsequent imprisonment of fellow DVB reporter Ngwe Soe Linn, who co-filmed the award-winning Channel 4 documentary, Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone, drew international condemnation, and brought to 14 the total number of DVB journalists currently in prison.

The military government in Burma is expected to intensify harassment and imprisonment of opposition in the run-up to elections this year. Already, more than 2,170 activists, journalists, politician and lawyers are serving lengthy prison sentences, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP).

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”.

Meanwhile, lawyer Myint Thwin said that 16 politically active people arrested in December last year are to submit appeal at Mandalay division’s central court on 22 March, after it was previously turned down by a divisional court.

“We have 18 case files for the 16 people,” he said. “An appeal at the Mandalay divisional court against the verdict was previously turned down. The appeal will be submitted [at the central court] on Monday or Tuesday next week.

The 16 were given sentences of up to 50 years under the Electronic Acts, the Video Acts, the Immigration Acts, the Unlawful Association Acts and the Export and Import Acts.


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