11 November, 2008

Myanmar joins Malaysia in internet crackdown.

Myanmar, seems is taking cues from the Malaysian government in cracking down on internet freedom.

The dictatorship there has taken it upon themselves to decide, what is supposed to go online and what is not. This has led to sites and blogs being shut down and online dissidents being silenced. Raids on internet cafes have risen alarmingly.

A young Burmese blogger, a valuable source of information during the bloody repression of monks in September of 2007, has been sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison. According to the official charges, he is guilty of slandering a high state official.

28-year-old Nay Phone Latt was arrested on January 29, 2008, and found guilty by a tribunal set up in the prison of Insein, in Yangon, where he is currently detained; he is accused of publishing a cartoon considered "offensive" toward the head of the military junta, General Than Shwe, on his blog. The newspaper The Irrawaddy reports that Nay's colleague and friend, Thin July Kyaw, has been sentenced to two years in prison, while two weeks ago three defence lawyers were sentenced to between four to six months in prison. The latest episode of repression by the ruling dictatorship has been denounced by Nay Phone Latt's mother, Aye Than.

In September of 2007, on the pages of his website, the young man recounted the massacres carried out by the junta against Burmese monks, becoming a valuable source of information for the international media.

On September 26, 2007, the decision of military leaders to attack the protagonists of the "saffron revolution" left 31 dead - according to official estimates, although many more were killed - including a Japanese journalist, who was shot to death. Another 74 people are still "officially disappeared," in addition to thousands of arrests among monks and activists.

Sources in Yangon also reveal that the military regime has sentenced the dissident poet Saw Wai to two years in prison: he was accused of publishing a poem mocking Than Shwe in the weekly Love Journal. At the beginning of each stanza was the line "General Than Shwe is mad with power."

A GROUP of bloggers from Yangon have formed an online community called the Myanmar Bloggers Society with the aim of organising blogging enthusiasts both within the country and abroad.

The group is currently developing its own site, www.myanmarblogger.org, which members expect to come online soon.

Meanwhile, in a statement in Washington, the US State Department criticized the imprisonment of the four defense lawyers and urged the Burmese regime to drop all charges and release them.

Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood called on the junta to stop harassing and arresting citizens for peacefully practicing their internationally recognized human rights, to release all political prisoners, and to start a genuine dialogue with democratic forces and ethnic minority groups for democratic reform in Burma.

Read "The Irrawaddy - " Young Burmese Blogger Sentenced to more than 20 Years in Jail"

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