Win Tin (12 March 1930 – 21 April 2014) was a Burmese journalist, politician and political prisoner. He co-founded the National League for Democracy (NLD). He was imprisoned by the military government for 19 years (1989–2008) for his writings and his leadership position in the NLD. He served as the editor-in-chief of Kyemon (The Mirror), one of Burma’s most popular newspapers at that time after it was nationalized and original founder, U Thaung, was imprisoned in 1964. In 1969, he was appointed as editor-in-chief of a State owned new daily newspaper, the Hanthawaddy Daily in Mandalay by Ne Win’s military government. It became a successful one within a few years. But thanks to his unwillingness to compromise his editorial independence and his proclivity to run stories criticizing the regime, the paper was shut down and he was dismissed in 1978.He wrote Search for beauty under the pen name Paw Thit. Translations of Northern Light and Queed were his well- known works. He also wrote books on his tours in communist countries. His autobiography, “What is the Human Hell”, was published in 2010 and described in detail of inhuman torturing and interrogation practices in prison Win Tin served a 20-year sentence on charges including “anti-government propaganda.” He had tried to inform the United Nations of ongoing human rights violations in Burmese prisons.In 2001, Win Tin was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for his efforts to defend and promote the right to freedom of expression. That year, he was also awarded the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom Award. From 2006 onward, he could not receive visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
At 81, he was in a poor state of health, exacerbated by his treatment in prison, which included torture, inadequate access to medical treatment, being held in a cell designed for military dogs, without bedding, and being deprived of food and water for long periods of time. D Wave, NLD official periodical, was started in prison by his hand writing.He was freed on 23 September 2008, after serving 19 years in prison. After his release from prison Win Tin made efforts to re-organize the NLD. He re- launched the weekly meetings of the party’s Central Executive Committee which had been irregularly held since 2003. He also resumed a regular roundtable called “Youth and Future” which Aung San SuuKyi had participated in the past. Win Tin visited families of political prisoners to offer moral support.
According to The Economist, he viewed Aung San SuuKyi as being “too soft and much too pro-establishment,” someone who “negotiated with the generals, where he never would, and was revered by party members in a way which he thought was bad for democracy. He set up U Win Tin Foundation to help former political prisoners and their families including scholarships for university education in 2012. Most of the awarded money was used for that purpose.“U Win Tin was the exemplar of dignified courage and principle against decades of brutal military rule,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director. “Human Rights Watch campaigned for his release for many years. We are deeply saddened by his death – an irreplaceable loss for Burma’s human rights community.”U Win Tin was a leader to future generations in Burma, encouraging younger activists and journalists to stand up to misrule and corruption, and to promote basic freedoms of assembly and free expression. He convened an NLD youth group to promote greater inclusion of younger activists into politics. He also helped former political prisoners reintegrate into the Burmese community, and financially assisted, within his small means, their families, who the authorities had also victimized for many years.