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Undercover reporter sentenced to 20 years in jail

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - The Pakokku District court handed down a 20-year prison term to an undercover female reporter, a judicial court source has said.

Hla Hla Win, believed to be a video reporter for an exile-based news agency, currently being held in Pakokku prison, and her co-accused in the same case, Myint Naing, were given additional 20 and 25-year prison sentences, respectively, on 31 December 2009.

They were charged under the Electronic Act and for another political case which has yet to be made public.

Hla Hla Win and her host Myint Naing were arrested on 11 September on their way back from Pakokku Sasana Wapuula Yama Pali Tekkatho (Ah Nauk Tike) in Magwe Division, where Hla Hla Win interviewed local monks. The Pakokku Township court gave each of them a 7-year prison sentence on 6 October under section 51 of the Export Import Act, for using an illegally imported motorcycle.

Lawyers in Pakokku are reluctant to represent the accused in political cases for fear of possible harassment and intimidation from police and local authorities. Furthermore, low lawyers' fees for these cases are another disincentive for lawyers considering getting involved in such cases, Rangoon based legal consultant Aung Thein said.

Thai-based Burma Media Association (BMA) Vice-Chairman Zin Lin said that they strongly condemn the additional long prison terms given to the female reporter. "She was arrested while she was trying to cover news and facts which should be known by the people. We strongly condemn the long prison sentences handed down to this reporter who is being targetted under a false pretext. We object to this act," Zin Lin said.

According to BMA, a total of 14 reporters were arrested in 2009, after the September 2007 saffron revolution.

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