Concerned over continued detention of Burmese media workers

Monday, May 5, 2014

His Excellency Hau Do Suan
Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
336 Island Park Drive
Ottawa, ON K1Y 0A7

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE joins Amnesty International Australia in expressing deep concern over the continued detention of four journalists and a news executive from the Burmese newspaper Unity. The newspaper’s chief-executive officer, Tint San and four of its reporters, Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw, and Sithu Soe were arrested on February 1, 2014 after Unity published an article detailing an alleged secret chemical weapons factory that was reportedly built on land confiscated from local farmers. The front-page article also reported that senior military officials had been seen visiting the facility.

The five men have been variously charged with revealing state secrets, trespassing, taking photographs of a restricted area and abetting the act of trespassing. If found guilty, they could face up to 14 years in prison. Lu Maw Naing, is reportedly suffering from back and stomach pain in prison, and has been denied adequate medical attention. It appears that these media workers are being unduly persecuted and punished for reporting on a matter of public interest. This is particularly worrisome considering that several other journalists have been imprisoned in connection to reporting on corruption and government activities since December 2013.

CJFE calls on the Burmese government to immediately and unconditionally release Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw, Sithu Soe and Tint San and drop all charges against them, ensuring Naing receives required medical attention. We also urge the government to immediately take steps to repeal or else amend legislation which is used to criminalize human rights defenders and journalists and to curtail freedom of expression.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President