Journalist Detained After Distributing Aid to Cyclone Victims
International PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of journalist Zaw Thet Htwe, who was arrested on June 13, 2008, after helping cyclone victims in the Irrawady Delta. No reason has been given for his arrest. PEN seeks details of any charges against him, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Civil and Political Rights.
Journalist Zaw Thet Htwe was arrested on June 13, 2008, while visiting his sick mother in the town of Minbu, central Burma, and transferred to an interrogation center in Yangon. His computer, mobile phone, and personal documents were also confiscated. No details were given to his family about the reason for his arrest or his place of detention. Zaw Thet Htwe had been working with comedian Zargana and other leading Burmese figures to deliver aid and support to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, which struck on May 2, 2008. Zargana was arrested on June 4, 2008, after openly criticizing the military regime’s response to the cyclone; he remains detained. There has been a widespread crackdown on attempts to report from the regions hit by the cyclone.
Zaw Thet Htwe formerly worked as editor of First Eleven Sports Journal, a popular sports journal in Myanmar. He was previously arrested in July 2003 on charges of treason following the publication of critical articles in the magazine. He was sentenced to death on November 28, 2003, by a military court in Insein Jail, but on May 12, 2004, the Supreme Court reduced his sentence to three years in prison and he was released in 2005. He also spent several years in detention in the 1990s for his work with the banned political organization Democratic Party for a New Society, which is now operating in exile.
Send Your Letter To
While the situation in Burma is still critical, letters sent to the country may not be received or taken as a priority. It is therefore recommended that appeals be sent to the diplomatic representative of Myanmar (Burma) in your own country:
- expressing serious concerns about the detention of journalist Zaw Thet Htwe, and seeking details of any charges against him;
- calling for his immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Volunteers may also consider writing letters to their national newspapers expressing alarm at events in Burma, and highlighting the cases of Zaw Thet Htwe and Zargana to illustrate the many years of repression in the country.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after July 7, 2008: ftw [at] pen.org