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UN agency chief renews call for release of jailed journalist in Myanmar

UN agency chief renews call for release of jailed journalist in Myanmar

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today renewed his call to the Government of Myanmar to release U Win Tin, the prize-winning journalist who has been in jail since 1989.

“It’s a sad anniversary of the one that marks the arrest, 18 years ago, of this figure of Burmese journalism,” said Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, which awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to the journalist in 2001.

“U Win Tin is today an old man and his state of health has deteriorated,” said Mr. Matsuura, repeating his call for the Burmese authorities “to show compassion and free him.”

A former editor of the daily newspaper Hanthawati, U Win Tin was vice-chair of the Myanmar Writers’ Association before he was arrested in July 1989 and accused of belonging to the banned Communist Party of the country. He was sentenced to 14 years jail. In 1996 he received an additional sentence of five years for breaking prison regulations prohibiting the possession of writing materials.

According to the International Freedom of Expression exchange, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross have not been able to visit U Win Tin or other Burmese prisoners since the start of 2006.

UNESCO is the only UN agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom, and Mr. Matsuura has issued frequent condemnations of the murder and detention of journalists around the world in recent months.