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"Ecovision" reporters charged with "inciting hatred" of government, sent back to prison; imprisoned poet answers charges without legal counsel

(Mizzima/IFEX) - A reporter of a Rangoon-based weekly journal, "Ecovision", has been charged with "committing crimes against public tranquility" and "inciting hatred against the government".

Ma Eint Khaing Oo of Ecovision was produced before the Tamwe Township Court in Rangoon Division for the first time on 24 June 2008 and charged under Section 505(b) and 124(a) of the Criminal Code. Offences under section 505 (b) are punishable by imprisonment of up to two years.

"She was brought from Tamwe police station, produced before the Court and charged under section 505(b) and 124(a) of the Criminal Code, after which she was taken back to Insein prison in the evening," her relative, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal by the authorities, told Mizzima after visiting her in court.

Eint Khaing Oo, a law graduate, was hired by the Rangoon-based weekly journal only two months ago. She was arrested while she was covering the plight of cyclone victims, who had approached Rangoon-based international NGOs for more aid. Initially, she was kept in police custody at Tamwe police station and then produced before the court.

Another journalist, Kyaw Kyaw Thant, was also arrested along with her on the same day and has now been charged in the same case. Although the court had set 2 July for Eint Khaing Oo's case to be heard, she was returned to custody without any hearing on 2 July after Kyaw Kyaw Thant's lawyers asked the judge to give them more time to study the case. The next hearing is scheduled for 10 July, according to defence counsel Khin Maung Shein.

"They didn't commit any crime under this section. Eint Khaing is a reporter and she was doing her job. And the news was true and she didn't send fabricated news to other news agencies. But we don't know what will happen in court. Maybe there are other grounds for the case and other circumstances," lawyer Khin Maung Shein said.

"Ecovision" journal was first published in September 2006. Initially, the journal mainly covered economic issues but later included domestic and international news, as well as articles on health issues and other topics.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, the famous poet Saw Wai, who had made fun of ageing SPDC Chairman Senior General Than Shwe, calling him "power crazy" in a poem, was remanded for the third time by the Bahan Township court on 24 June.

His poem, "February 14", disguised as a St. Valentine's Day poem, had appeared in January 2008 in the Rangoon-based weekly journal "Ah Chit" (Love). The first word of each stanza, when read together, formed the phrase "power crazy Senior General Than Shwe", a reference to the head of the ruling junta.

This information circulated among the people and finally came to the attention of the authorities. The government, which is over-sensitive regarding any criticism, arrested the poet immediately.

The prosecutor charged him in court under section 505(b) of the Criminal Code, which refers to actions "with intent to cause harm to any section of the public to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility." Although the government allowed him a defence lawyer, the court delayed permission for his lawyer to appear and defend him in court until 24 June.

"Saw Wai has been produced before the court three times, the last time was yesterday (24 June). The court has examined two witnesses, one from the Censor Board and another from the 'Love' weekly journal. His lawyer could not represent him as the court delayed granting him a defence lawyer to represent Saw Wai's case. Saw Wai had to represent himself in his case," his wife Nan San San Aye, who visited the court, told Mizzima.

The authorities arrested the poet on 22 January; he has been in custody since then.

In another development involving detained journalists, Thet Zin, editor-in-chief of a local journal, "Myanmar Nation", and his administrator Sein Win Maung were produced before the court on 2 July.

The two were arrested on 15 February and were charged under section 17/20 of the Publishing Act. Though they were produced before the court, they were not examined, defence lawyer Pho Phyu said.

Thet Zin and Sein Win Maung were arrested for possessing a copy of a Human Rights Report by Mr. Pinheirro, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Burma, a book titled "Let's build an unbreakable federal union", written by Burmese veteran politician Shwe Ohn, and documentary VCDs of the September Saffron Revolution.

The military intelligence personnel who raided the "Myanmar Nation" journal office also prohibited publication of the journal.

Updates the Ma Eint Khaing Oo case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94808

Updates the Saw Wai case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/90358

For further information on the Thet Zin and Sein Win Maung case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/91187

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