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Burmese Journalists Demand Release of Colleague

Burmese journalists hold banners as they protest for press freedom outside office of the Daily Eleven newspaper in Rangoon, Jan. 7, 2014.
Dozens of Burmese journalists have held a protest to demand the release of a colleague who was sentenced to three-months in prison.

The journalists and activists held signs saying "The Right to Information is the Life of Democracy" as they marched through downtown Rangoon on Tuesday.

They were protesting the conviction of Ma Khine, a journalist who was working on a story about corruption when she was arrested in the eastern state of Kayah.

Myint Kyaw, head of the Myanmar Journalist Network, said Ma Khine was targeted because of her work.

"Because she is a journalist, she was imprisoned. We believe that it is a direct threat to press freedom and right to information. That's why we protest against it," he said.

She was convicted last month of trespassing, using abusive language, and defamation, after interviewing a lawyer for the story. Her employer, the Eleven Media Group, and international rights groups suspect the charges are politically motivated.

Since direct military rule in Burma, also known as Myanmar, ended in 2011, a nominally civilian government has introduced a number of media reforms, including relaxing censorship and releasing imprisoned journalists.

But Thiha Saw, Vice-Chairperson of the Myanmar Journalist Association (MJA), told VOA's Burmese service that press freedom is still under threat in Burma.

"For example, sometime the police call upon a publication and warn them [on something they publish]. That kind of action is still the same as under an old system. Press Freedom is still far away."

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders says Burma still ranks 151st out of 179 nations in press freedom. The group has called for a review of Ma Khine's case.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.)