Director-General renews request for release of U Win Tin, imprisoned for the last 18 years
Koïchiro Matsuura has renewed his request for the release of U Win Tin.
The winner of the 2001 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize began on 4 July his 18th year in prison.
"This is a sad anniversary, which marks the arrest 18 years ago of a prominent figure in journalism in Myanmar. U Win Tin is today an elderly man whose health has deteriorated. For these reasons, I again call upon the government of Myanmar to show compassion and set him free," declared Mr Matsuura.
U Win Tin, 77, the former editor of the Myanmar daily Hanthawati and vice-chair of the Myanmar Writers' Association, was arrested on 4 July 1989. He was accused of belonging to the banned Communist Party of Myanmar, condemned to 14 years in jail and incarcerated in Insein prison in Rangoon. In 1996, another five years were added to his sentence because he broke prison regulations prohibiting the possession of writing materials.
Following a period in Myingyan prison, where his family could bring him neither food nor medicine, he was returned to Rangoon. Since the start of 2006, according to the International Freedom of Expression exchange (IFEX), representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross have not been able to visit U Win Tin or other Burmese prisoners because members of the UDSA movement (close to the government) have demanded to be present. In July 2006, U Win Tin was eligible for early release, but it was refused.
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to "further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations." To realize this purpose the Organization is required to "collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image..."