Jailed Burmese journalist awarded top prize

IF BURMA'S unending nightmare is too often forgotten by the world, the main reason is that the junta is so brutally efficient at silencing dissenters.

Take the case of San San Nweh, who today receives in absentia Reporters sans Frontieres' 50,000 franc (pounds 4,800) Fondation de France prize, awarded annually to journalists who have "demonstrated their devotion to press freedom".

San San Nweh, 55, the first Burmese woman to train as a journalist and a writer with 12 novels, 500 short stories and 100 poems to her name, has been in prison since 1994, serving 10 years.

Her crimes include giving "anti-government reports" to visiting foreign journalists, meeting former members of a banned party to "foment disorder" and being interviewed for a French documentary.

She made her name with her third novel, Prison of Darkness, an indictment of the dictatorship. Later she became involved with the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

San San Nweh's years in Rangoon's Insein prison have left her with a liver disease and eye problems. Her eldest daughter, a writer and political activist, is also in jail.

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