News editor tortured, given 13 years

The editor of a Karenni state-based news journal has been given a 13-year prison sentence after being convicted on a raft of media charges.

The sentencing of Nyi Nyi Tun, the editor of Kantarawaddy News Journal, has drawn scathing condemnation of the Burmese junta from international media groups. He had already been in detention for a year when the sentence was passed on 14 October, with charges ranging from contact with an exiled news group to using electronic media without permission.

Burma already has some of the world’s most draconian media laws, and the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiers – RSF) ranked it 174 out of 178 countries in its latest Press Freedom Index, released this month. Burma was also recently awarded the penultimate spot in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Index.

Nyi Nyi Tun was convicted by a closed court inside Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison, where the majority of Burma’s nearly 2,200 political prisoners are tried. He had been held there since his arrest on 13 October 2009, when he was initially accused of “terrorist acts” in Rangoon, although these charges were later dropped.

“According to his family, Nyi Nyi Tun was tortured during interrogation,” said a joint statement issued today by RSF and the Burma Media Association.

“Based in the eastern border state of Kayah [Karenni state]…Kantarawaddy News Journal was closed after his arrest. According to several Burmese journalists, the authorities were glad to be rid of this influential privately-owned magazine.”

Among the political prisoner population are nearly 20 journalists, 17 of whom work for DVB. Like many others, Nyi Nyi Tun was also charged with Article 505/b, which bans the dissemination of “false information intended to disrupt public order”.

The two media watchdogs drew a parallel with the arrest of Oakkan Tha, a Buddhist monk who was convicted of “anti-electoral activities” at the end of September for sending information to the Thailand-based Mon News Agency

The clamp on independent media appears to be tightening as Burma’s elections loom. Reports are already circulating of a major slowdown in internet speed – a tactic used often by the junta during politically sensitive times. Foreign journalists and observers have been banned from entering the country during the election period.

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