Sein Win, a renowned journalist in Myanmar who championed press freedom and endured three stints in prison as he chronicled several decades of his nation’s turbulent history, died yesterday at age 91.
His family said he died in a Yangon hospital after a long period of ill health.
His work won him international honors, but in his own country his accomplishments were rewarded with jail time and a quarter-century ban on foreign travel.
Sein Win was The Associated Press’ correspondent in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, from 1969 to 1989. His daughter Aye Aye Win has held the job since then.
Sein Win began his journalism career after the 1942 Japanese invasion of what was then called Burma. He started as an unpaid translator at a Burmese-language newspaper, and later worked as an apprentice reporter, editor, publisher and foreign correspondent.
He worked under Japanese occupation, British colonialism, parliamentary democracy and military rule. He lived long enough to see censorship lifted, and the return this year of private daily newspapers under the elected government that took over from the military in 2011.
“In my experience as a journalist for over 40 years under various types of governments, I always find the independent press as a suspect and victim of the governments,” he said in a 1989 speech to the International Press Institute in Berlin. “The colonial government regarded the independent press as a rebel. The national democratic governments treated us like their rival and the national autocratic regimes branded the free press as enemy.”
The son of a junior civil servant, Sein Win was born on Feb. 12, 1922, in Kyaunggon, a town west of Yangon, which at the time was the capital and known as Rangoon.
Sein Win joined The Associated Press in 1969 and became one of the few sources for news from the isolated country.
“Without him, we would have been lost,” said Denis Gray, who oversaw Burma coverage as the news agency’s bureau chief in neighboring Thailand from 1976 to 2011.
He called Sein Win “an absolute gold mine of knowledge.”