Director-General requests liberation of U Win Tin, winner of the 2001 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom PrizeUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today renewed his request for the liberation of U Win Tin, winner of the 2001 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
“I would like draw attention to the fact that U Win Tin, former editor of the Myanmar daily Hanthawati, is still in prison,” Mr Matsuura said. “Concerned over the continued detention of a man who is elderly and in ill-health, I renew my request to the government of Myanmar to show compassion and release him.”
U Win Tin turned 76 on 12 March. He was the former editor of Hanthawati and vice-chair of the Myanmar Writers’ Association. Arrested in July 1989 and accused of belonging to the banned Communist Party of Myanmar, he was condemned to 14 years jail and transported to Insein prison in Rangoon. In 1996 he received an additional sentence of five years for breaking 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.
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…”