22 April 2016
Update #1 to RAN 12/14
PEN International welcomes the release of five journalists with the Unity weekly journal, on 17 April 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 10 July 2014 over a report about an alleged secret chemical weapons factory carried by the publication in January. No further action needed.
On 10 July 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 31 January and 1 February 2014 after Unity published an article on 25 January 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 12 February 2014, and they were convicted on 30 June 2014 for breaching the 1923 Official Secrets Act, trespassing in a restricted area and taking photos of a Defence Ministry facility without permission. On 26 June 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 17 April 2016.
Thank you to all who participated in the original action.
For further information please contact Emma Wadsworth-Jones at PEN International, Unit A Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Steet, London SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: email@example.com