Bangkok, October 12, 2011 – The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s release of Burmese blogger and comedian Maung Thura, but reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of at least 12 other journalists on CPJ’s imprisoned list.
Maung Thura, popularly known as Zarganar, was released in the first phase of a promised amnesty of over 6,300 prisoners in Burma. According to international news reports, as many as 300 political prisoners were released today from detention facilities across the country.
Maung Thura was originally sentenced to 59 years in prison in November 2008 for violations of the Electronics Act, communicating with exiled dissidents, and causing public alarm in interviews with foreign media, including the BBC.
He also maintained a blog, Zarganar-windoor, which often detailed his volunteer group’s humanitarian works, including entries that were critical of the military government’s response to the 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster.
Maung Thura’s sentence was later reduced to 35 years on appeal. Burma’s draconian Electronics Act allows for harsh prison sentences for using electronic media, including the Internet, to send information outside the country without government approval.
“While we welcome today’s release of blogger Maung Thura, it is only a token gesture as long as 13 other journalists are still behind bars,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We urge President Thein Sein to follow through on his reform rhetoric with more concrete actions, including the release of all the journalists his government currently holds in detention.”