PEN Welcomes Release of Award-Winning Burmese Blogger Nay Phone Latt
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York City, January 13, 2012—PEN American Center is thrilled by the news that blogger Nay Phone Latt, the 2010 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award winner, has been released from prison in Myanmar today in one of the most significant amnesties of political prisoners in the country’s history, calling it “a triumph for freedom of expression in this critical year.”
Nay Phone Latt, an influential young blogger, poet, and political dissident, was arrested on January 29, 2008, and on November 10, 2008, was sentenced by a specially-assembled court to a combined 20 years and six months in prison for blogging about the military crackdown against a popular uprising during the fall of 2007. The court, formed to prosecute political dissidents within prison walls, was closed to the public, and Nay Phone Latt’s mother was banned from attending the hearing. Nay Phone Latt was not allowed legal representation after his lawyer was sentenced to prison time for contempt while protesting unfair hearings. On February 20, 2009, a court in Rangoon reduced his sentence by eight and a half years, leaving him to serve 12 years in Pa-an Prison in Karen State, 135 miles from Yangon.
Nay Phone Latt is among 651 prisoners released today, including several other writers and dissidents. Win Maw, a musician who was serving a seven-year sentence, and journalist Zaw Thet Htwe, who was serving an 11-year sentence, were also released in today’s amnesty. Both were high-priority PEN cases.
“We are delighted that Nay Phone Latt, whose case we have followed closely, has now been released,” said Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of PEN American Center. “There is the latest in a series of signs of real hope that Burma is moving in the right direction. We look forward to his being able to return to blogging unmolested.”
In 2010, PEN American Center chose Nay Phone Latt as recipient of its PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, which honors international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression. Shortly thereafter, he was named as one of the TIME 100, one of the year’s most influential people of the year, under its category “Heroes.”
“Nay Phone Latt truly is a true hero of freedom of expression,” said Larry Siems, director of Freedom to Write and International Programs. “We have been waiting a long time to hear this news, and now, at a time when Myanmar is at a true crossroads, we are hopeful that the country is on a path to reform, that the rest of its political prisoners will soon be freed, and that its citizens will be permitted their full rights to write and express themselves peacefully in whatever form they choose. We especially look forward to hearing more from Nay Phone Latt, both in his blogging and his poetry.”
PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit www.pen.org
For more information contact:
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111