New York City, October 12, 2011—PEN American Center is thrilled that Zargana, an Honorary Member of the center, has been released from prison following a general amnesty that saw 206 political prisoners released today in Myanmar, but called on the government to make good on its promises and release the rest of its political prisoners, including Nay Phone Latt, the 2010 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award winner.

Zargana, a well-known comedian and poet and an Honorary Member of PEN American Center, was released this morning from Myitkyina Prison in Kachin State, Myanmar, where he had been serving a 35-year sentence for his private relief work on behalf of victims of Cyclone Nargis in May of 2008 and for his criticism of the government.

Zargana was flown to Rangoon following his release, where he told news agencies that though is glad to be free, he worries that he can be imprisoned again at any time. He also called for the release of his fellow activists still in prison, adding “I will be happy, and I will thank the government only when all of my friends are freed.”

Among those not included in today’s amnesty is Nay Phone Latt, a blogger and poet and the winner of the 2010 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, who is serving a 12-year sentence at Pa-an Prison in Karen State, 135 miles from his home in Rangoon. Nay Phone Latt was imprisoned in January 2008 for his blogging activities surrounding the 2007 Saffron Uprising.

“We welcome the release of Zargana and the 205 other political prisoners freed today as a first step towards rectifying the abuses of freedom of expression that were perpetrated against the Burmese people by their own government,” said Larry Siems, director of the Freedom to Write and International programs at PEN American Center. “Still, it is only a first step. We call on the Myanmar authorities to immediately release Nay Phone Latt and all other writers who have been imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

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

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111