Press release from The Free Burma VJ campaign
The Free Burma VJ campaign on 9 September protested in front of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok to call for the release of jailed Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) video-journalist (VJ), Hla Hla Win.
Hla Hla Win turned 27 on 29 August. She was first arrested in September 2009, just after the anniversary of the 2007 monk-led uprising, and was sentenced to 27 years in jail. The arrest took place as she was returning from a DVB reporting assignment in Pakokku township, Magwe division, where she had conducted interviews with Buddhist monks in a local monastery.
Today, dozens of participants wearing Hla Hla Win’s mask protested in front of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok. They called for the immediate release of the young journalist as well as the release of all political prisoners in Burma. Aye Chan Naing, DVB Executive Director and Chief Editor, said: “There is no legal justification to arrest Hla Hla Win and she should not have been arrested in the first place or spent a single day in jail. We ask the Burmese government to let her free immediately.”
“We can’t let the regime ruin Hla Hla Win’s life for interviewing a monk and working for DVB. That’s why the Free Burma VJ campaign has organised this protest. We call on the Burmese government to release our 17 VJs serving unfair, lengthy prison sentences,” said Géraldine May, Free Burma VJ campaign coordinator. On the same day, in Paris, Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights, Info Birmanie and Reporters Without Borders (RSF/RWB) also protested in front of the Burmese embassy.
“Hla Hla Win is a symbol that things still need to change in Burma. If the Burmese regime is serious about wanting national reconciliation and wants some credibility, there is one action they can undertake now: release all political prisoners,“said Frédéric Débomy, president of Info Birmanie.
The head of Asia-Pacific desk at Reporters Without Borders, Benjamin Ismaïl added:“Hla Hla Win is serving a 27-year jail sentence for trying to tell the world what was happening in Burma. She is a symbol of all those who, like her, are paying a high price for exercising their right to access information and to inform others. Close to 20 journalists and bloggers have been arrested by the police or army since the Saffron Revolution in 2007.
“We urge the international community to reiterate its requests to the new Burmese government to release all the imprisoned reporters, including Democratic Voice of Burma’s video journalists, without delay.”
In the United Kingdom, Burma Campaign UK expressed their support for the young VJ by organising a protest in front of the Burmese embassy in London. Aung Gyi, Burma VJ and Senior Advisor at Burma Campaign UK said: “Thein Sein is saying that Burma is moving towards democracy. I would like to demand the Burmese President and government release all political prisoners including Hla Hla Win and other journalists if they want to prove they are changing.”
In Geneva, a fourth protest was organized by Reporters Without Borders’ Switzerland branch. Protestors met in front of the Palais Wilson building, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) before going to the Mission of Myanmar. They delivered a petition asking for the immediate release of Hla Hla Win and all political prisoners addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U Wunna Maung Lwin. Reporters Without Borders’ Switzerland branch plans to frequently organize protests around Switzerland for Hla Hla Win until her release.
Brett Solomon, Executive Director of Access, who launched a special petition campaign for the release of Hla Hla Win and all political prisoners, said: “Thousands of people from around the world have put their name forward, calling on ASEAN to show leadership and on the Burmese government to finally release Hla Hla Win and the political prisoners currently detained. Now is the time for action.”
The Free Burma VJ campaign has written to the Burmese ambassador in Thailand requesting the immediate release of Hla Hla Win, who is serving a 27 year sentence in Kathar prison.