Burmese journalist and NLD member Myo Myint Nyein was freed on 13 February 2002 after spending 12 years in prison for publishing a poem against the army and then for complaining about prison conditions. His family told Reporters Without Borders (RSF – Reporters without Borders) he was released from Tharrawaddy prison (100 km north of Rangoon) and taken to Rangoon to be interrogated by the MIS military police. He was expected home later in the day.
Held since September 1997 at Tharrawaddy after six years in Rangoon's Insein jail, he had been sentenced on 19 November 1990 to seven years in prison for publishing a poem criticising the Burmese army in his magazine Yin-Kyae-Hmu (Cultural). After a show trial, he was given another seven-year sentence on 28 March 1996 for helping to write a letter to the United Nations special rapporteur for Burma about prison conditions and ill-treatment of prisoners at Insein.
His release, two years before the end of his sentence and along with four other political prisoners, came during the visit to Burma of the UN special rapporteur, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who recently urged the regime to free the journalist.
RSF and the Burma Media Association (BMA – an organisation of Burmese journalists in exile) are pleased at his release but regret the authorities did not free him long before in view of the serious deterioration in his physical and mental health.
For several years, RSF and the BMA, along with sponsoring media and thousands of people who signed petitions, have campaigned for his release. As a way of denouncing the attitude of the regime, they nominated him for a prize awarded by the foundation Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, which he won in 2001.
He was never given proper treatment in jail for the acute psychological and stomach ailments that plagued him during his years in a filthy cell. For several months he was forced to live in a dog kennel at Insein prison.
A former prisoner who shared a cell with him said "solitary confinement, interrogations and untreated illnesses brought down what was once a physically robust man, whose father was a boxer."
RSF believes that at least 17 other journalists are still in prison in Burma and is especially concerned about the fate of Sein Hla Oo, who completed his sentence in August 2001 but has not yet been released. The journalist Win Tin, an adviser to the National League for Democracy, held at Insein since 4 July 1989, is also believed to be greatly weakened by various illnesses.