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Myanmar’s Release Of Detainee 'Positive' Step

Myanmar’s Release Of Long-Serving Detainee ‘Positive’ Step, Says UNESCO Chief

New York, Sep 24 2008 10:13AM

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has hailed Myanmar’s release of U Win Tin, a writer and former newspaper editor who was detained for nearly 20 years and is also the 2001 laureate of a press freedom prize instituted by the agency.

“It is with immense joy that I welcome the release of U Win Tin,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said yesterday on hearing of the development.

“In freeing U Win Tin and other prisoners, the authorities have taken a wise and positive step towards respecting the fundamental human right of freedom of expression, an indispensable component of democracy and rule of law,” Mr. Matsuura added.

U Win Tin, 79, is the former editor of the daily Hanthawati newspaper, vice-chair of Myanmar’s Writers’ Association and a founder of the National League for Democracy (NLD), whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.

He was arrested in July 1989 and was accused of belonging to the banned Communist Party of Myanmar. Sentenced to 14 years jail, he received an additional term of five years in 1996 for breaking prison regulations prohibiting the possession of writing materials.

In 2001, U Win Tin was honoured with the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize, named after the Colombian newspaper publisher assassinated in 1987 for denouncing the activities of powerful drug barons in his country.

News of the release of U Win Tin and several others was also welcomed yesterday by the independent UN expert on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, who said he hoped the move “would be the first in a series of releases of other prisoners of conscience, some 2,000 of whom are currently estimated to be still detained in Myanmar."

ENDS

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