U Sein Win, Champion of Myanmar Press Freedom, Dies at 91

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U Sein Win, a journalist who championed press freedom in Myanmarand endured three stints in prison, died on Thursday in Yangon, Myanmar. He was 91.

U Sein Win in 1969. His family announced the death.

Mr. Sein Win, who was the Associated Press’s Yangon correspondent from 1969 to 1989, began his journalism career after the Japanese invasion of Myanmar, then called Burma, in 1942. He worked under Japanese occupation, British colonialism, parliamentary democracy and military rule.

He lived long enough to see censorship lifted and the return of private daily newspapers this year under the elected government that took over from the military in 2011.

The son of a junior civil servant, Mr. Sein Win was born on Feb. 12, 1922, in Kyaunggon, west of Yangon, which was the capital of Burma and was known as Rangoon.

Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948, but repressive colonial-era laws remained in place.

Two years after becoming editor and publisher of the Burmese newspaper The Guardian in 1958, Mr. Sein Wein was jailed for nearly a month before charges were dropped.

After a military coup ousted the country’s parliamentary government in March 1962, The Guardian and other daily newspapers were nationalized. In 1963, Mr. Sein Win earned a seat on the International Press Institute’s board and was given the Golden Pen of Freedom award by the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers, but it would be another quarter-century before he was allowed to travel abroad to collect his award.

Gen. Ne Win, the country’s leader, tossed thousands of real or imagined opponents into jail. “I was one of them, spending three years under ‘protective custody’ without interrogation or trial,” Mr. Sein Win recounted.

A pro-democracy uprising challenged Gen. Ne Win’s rule in 1988. Its first wave was crushed, and although he formally ceded power, the shadow government he installed rounded up people he felt had betrayed him. Mr. Sein Win was imprisoned for 28 days.

A semblance of democracy was restored to Myanmar in 2011. Some of the most notable reforms made since then by President Thein Sein have granted more freedom to the press.

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