Myanmar: Five Journalists Released Following Presidential Pardon

Myanmar: Five journalists released following presidential pardon

PEN Canada joins PEN International in welcoming the release of five journalists with the Unity weekly journal, on April 17, 2016 following a presidential pardon. The five were arrested in January and February 2014, and had each been sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labour on July 10, 2014 over a report about an alleged secret chemical weapons factory carried by the publication in January. No further action is needed.

Background

On July 10, 2014, a court in Pakkoku, Magway Region, sentenced U Tin San, the chief executive officer of the weekly Unity journal, and journalists U Ya Zar Oo, U Paing Thet Kyaw, U Sithu Soe and U Lu Maw Naing to 10 years in jail with hard labour. They had been arrested on January 31 and February 1, 2014 after Unitypublished an article on January 25, about an alleged secret chemical weapons factory in Pauk Township, Pakokku District known as Defence Product Factory No. 24. According to state media, the five were charged with “disclosing State secrets, trespassing on the restricted area of the factory, taking photographs and the act of abetting” under Article 3(1) A/9 of Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. Their trial began on February 12, 2014, and they were convicted on June 30, 2014 for breaching the 1923 Official Secrets Act, trespassing in a restricted area and taking photos of a Defence Ministry facility without permission. On June 26, 2014 the publication suspended operations due to financial problems.

The five were reportedly among 83 political prisoners pardoned, including writer Htin Lin Oo, by the newly elected President Htin Kyaw as part of celebrations of Myanmar New Year. The new government, which is steered by veteran democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, has vowed to prioritise freeing the scores of political prisoners jailed by the country’s former military leaders. They were released from Pakokku prison on April 17, 2016.

Thank you to all who participated in the original action.