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The lawyer representing jailed DVB reporter Zaw Pe announced on Thursday that he will launch an appeal against the sentence to a higher court.
“In the capacity of his defence lawyer, I will appeal against the sentence to a higher court,” said Thein Tun, Zaw Pe’s counsel.
Speaking to DVB staff and other local reporters in Magwe on Thursday, Thein Tun explained the incident that some are calling proof of Burma’s “backslide” on media reform.
On 7 April Zaw Pe and a father of a student, Win Min Hlaing, were sentenced to one year imprisonment for trespassing and disturbing a civil servant after they visited the Magwe Division Education Department to conduct an interview.
“Zaw Pe went to a public area and took photos. This does not constitute physical harassment. The officials themselves stated that there was no verbal harassment either,” he said.
Win Kyi from Magwe Division’s Journalists Association was also present at the discussion and said Zaw Pe’s sentence reveals corruption in Burma’s legal system.
“The sentencing indicates that the judicial sector is being interfered by the executive sector,” he said.
DVB’s Burma Bureau Chief, Toe Zaw Latt said DVB would keep campaigning for Zaw Pe’s release.
“We are concerned that the government authorities will continue to use these laws against journalists who ask questions they don’t like. Therefore we will keep campaigning and building a case,” he said.
DVB is also planning to organise a protest with members from other media organisations after the Thingyan Water Festival.
On Thursday, staff from DVB gathered at Sule Pagoda in downtown Rangoon to pray for Zaw Pe’s release, wearing t-shirts with the slogan, “Stop media oppression”.
Fellow reporter Aung Soe Htike said Zaw Pe’s sentencing is unjust.
“The jailing has brought up a lot of questions about Burma’s media freedom. Zaw Pe went to a public area to conduct an interview and was prosecuted for disturbing a civil servant and trespassing, which we see as a big threat to media freedom,” he said.
On 8 April, the day after Zaw Pe’s sentencing, DVB reporters in Mandalay gathered at the Aungdawmu Pagoda for a similar prayer ceremony.