DVB Reporter Zaw Pe Due to Be Released

By Yen Saning 3 July 2014

RANGOON — Imprisoned Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reporter Zaw Pe is due to be released on Friday after his prison sentence was reduced from one year to three months by Magwe Division Court during an appeal against his sentence, DVB said.

“The district court rejected our appeal, but Magwe Division Court ruled for remission of the sentence in the case,” Toe Zaw Latt, bureau chief of DVB said. “We assume that there is a positive intention to amend the sentencing.”

“We think there will be no condition put on his release, as the case is barely a civil case,” he added.

Zaw Pe, a video reporter for DVB, was sentenced to one year in prison on April 7 for trespassing at an education department office and disrupting the duties of a civil servant by a court in Magwe Division.

He was attempting to conduct an interview for a video report about Japanese-funded scholarships for local students when local officials objected.

A lawsuit was filed in 2012 by a Magwe township education officer as well as Win Myint Hlaing, the father of a student who brought the reporter to the department’s compound.

Toe Zaw Latt said Zaw Pe had given prior notification when he visited the department and was not guilty of trespassing.

Under the former military regime, Zaw Pe spent two years in prison for filming a video report for DVB without a license.

The DVB bureau chief criticized the fact that criminal charges were brought against a journalist doing his job, adding, “We would like media personnel to be punished only under media laws.”

“It’s like a journalist is punished twice, under the existing [criminal] law and under media law. We don’t want legal action [against journalists] under the Penal Code, there shouldn’t be,” he said.

“According the media law, only after a case is negotiated by the Press Council, can a [journalist] be punished according to the law,” he said.

Zaw Pe’s case is one of several criminal cases that authorities have brought against Burmese journalists in recent months, and concerns are growing that President Thein Sein’s nominally-civilian government is seeking to curb media freedoms.

Last week, Special Branch officers visited the offices of several media organizations, including The Irrawaddy, supposedly to investigate the administration and finances of the organizations.