Five media workers from the Unity newspaper in Myanmar have been released following a Presidential pardon. The good news came after months of campaigning for the ‘Unity 5’ from Amnesty members and supporters across the world.
Unity journalists Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw, Sithu Soe and the newspaper’s chief executive officer Tint San had been arrested in 2014 after the newspaper published an article about an alleged secret chemical weapons factory in Pakokku Township, Magway Region.
What I want is more media freedom.Tint San, Chief Executive Officer of Unity newspaper, during his trial.
They were all charged with “disclosing State secrets, trespassing on the restricted area of the factory, taking photographs and the act of abetting” under Myanmar’s draconian Official Secrets Act. They were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labour, which was later reduced to seven years with hard labour.
The five were released from Pakokku prison on 17 April as part of a Presidential pardon which saw the release of 83 prisoners, including prisoners of conscience Amnesty International has campaigned for.
The government should not view the media as an enemy but instead value press freedom.Sithu Soe, one of the Unity 5, June 2015.
Their release sends an encouraging message about the new government’s commitment to ending political arrests and imprisonment in the country. But there is still more work to do, and Amnesty International will continue to campaign for the release of all remaining prisoners of conscience to ensure that no one is left behind bars.