New York, NY, January 5, 2005–PEN American Center welcomed reports that poet and journalist Aung Myint and three other journalists were among more than 50 political prisoners released in Myanmar on January 3, 2005. Freedom to Write Program Director Larry Siems called the releases a positive step, and expressed hope that at least seven other writers known to PEN to be imprisoned in Myanmar would also be freed.

In addition to his work as a poet and a journalist, Aung Myint was serving as the head of the information department of the National League for Democracy (NLD) at the time of his arrest. He was detained with his assistant Kyaw Sein Oo on September 14, 2000 by members of Unit 14 of the Military Intelligence Service for distributing a press release to international press agencies and Western diplomats a few hours after NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested by security forces as she was trying to leave Rangoon.

Aung was charged with violating the State Protection and Emergency Provision Acts and sentenced by a military court on December 20, 2000 to 21 years’ imprisonment. Kyaw Sein Oo was tried separately under the Printers and Publishers Registration Act and sentenced to seven years in prison. Four other NLD members were tried by the military court and sentenced the same day to heavy prison terms. Aung received the prestigious PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2002.

Also reportedly released on Monday were Ohn Kyaing, a translator and editor jailed in 1990 and held beyond the expiration of his sentence in September 2004; Zaw Thet Htwe, an editor and sports writer arrested in 2003 and originally sentenced to death; and journalist Thein Tan.

At least seven other writers and journalists continue to be held in violation of their right to freedom of expression in Myanmar. PEN called again today for their immediate and unconditional release.

The PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Awards honor  international literary figures who have been  persecuted or imprisoned for  exercising or defending the right to  freedom of expression. The awards are an extension of  PEN’s year-round advocacy on behalf of the more than 1,150 writers and  journalists who are currently threatened or in  prison. Thirty-seven women and men have received the  award since 1987; 27 of the 29 honorees who were in prison at the time they were honored have been released.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 106