Last April, writer and historian Barbara Goldsmith announced that Nay Phone Latt was the winner of the 2010 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith "Freedom to Write" award , which honors international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression.
But Nay Phone Latt wasn't there to receive his award. Like Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who last week received the Nobel Prize in absentia, t he prominent Burmese poet and human rights advocate was back home in his native Mynamar, serving a 12-year sentence for distributing news and views via his blog.
Nay Phone Latt was arrested on January 29, 2008, following the monks' protests in Rangoon and elsewhere in the country
"He represents a younger generation of Burmese who are longing for freedom and willing to pay the cost of speaking out in its defense," said Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of PEN American Center.
"That he is a blogger reflects the global truth that Internet censorship is one of the great threats to free expression today."
Nay Phone Latt's treatment is emblematic of a deadly virus sweeping across the world and spreading its pathogens any place where an authoritarian, totalitarian government holds power. These despots have quickly learned the contemporary Internet social networking techniques used by their subjects -" and have moved in with a heavy hand to suppress these free expressions.
Despite its faux non-military trappings, Mynamar certainly qualifies, but then so do scores of other countries -" most of them America's "allies" and recipients of large sums of money and aid to help us wage "the global war on terror."
The war on bloggers and other social networkers is probably fiercest in the Middle East, but a host of other countries participate with similar sinister gusto.