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Photographer sentenced to eight years in prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Sithu Zeya, a 21-year-old photographer who was arrested on 16 April 2010 for taking photos of the damage caused by a bomb in a Rangoon park, has been sentenced to eight years in prison. His father, Maung Maung Zeya, a journalist and painter who was arrested a day later, is to be tried in January 2011. Both worked for the exile radio and TV station Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).

Reporters Without Borders and its partner organisation, the Burma Media Association, condemn the arbitrary punishment of a news photographer who was just doing his job. The two organisations are appalled by the way Sithu Zeya and his father are being treated. The son has already received one long jail sentence and could receive another. The father is awaiting a sentence that could be very harsh.

The two organisations call for the release of the DVB reporters, fearing that they will be treated extremely severely by the Burmese authorities. Hla Hla Win, a young woman who worked as a video reporter for DVB, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on 31 December 2009. In all, six DVB reporters are currently detained in Burma.

According to Sithu Zeya's legal adviser Aung Thein, no evidence or testimony was presented at his trial on 21 December before a court in the Rangoon district of Mingalar Taung Nyunt. The judges reached their verdict solely on the basis of a confession extracted under torture. The eight-year sentence consisted of five years for crossing the border with Thailand illegally and three years for "communicating with an illegal organisation" (meaning DVB).

Sithu Zeya is facing the possibility of an additional sentence of up to 20 years in prison under the Electronics Act for taking the photos after the bombing during the Burmese New Year festivities in April that left nine people dead and 170 injured.

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association condemn the Electronics Act, which exposes journalists to the possibility of imprisonment while having a deadening effect on the country's media. It is high time the Burmese junta stopped gagging reporters.

Reporters Without Borders released a report, entitled "Burmese media combating censorship", on 22 December that highlighted the importance of the role played by exile media such as DVB in providing news and information to the Burmese public.
To read the report, click here
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