Two Reuters journalists are on trial in Myanmar/Burma, under a colonial-era Official Secrets Act, arrested while they were working on an investigative piece on a massacre of 10 Rohingya men in the village of Inn Din. They have been fighting a legal battle that has caught the world’s attention ever since, especially as a milestone case for the country regarding the freedom of the press.

Read more about the two journalists, Kyaw Soe Oo and Ko Wa Lone, and their story (which was published) here.

Reuters recently reported on the condition in which the journalists have been held, especially upon their arrest — Kyaw Soe Oo said that he was forced to his knees when he was arrested and that they “put black hoods on us outside the Htaunt Kyant police station and we stayed hooded until we arrived at Aung Tha Pyay … There were around ten interrogation officers who took turns interrogating me. They didn’t let us rest and asked questions for three days straight while I was in handcuffs.”

The two could wind up spending up to 14 years in prison.

Insein Prison in Yangon, July 3, 2009. | AP Photo/John Heilprin

Conditions in Burmese imprisonment can vary greatly — the country is notorious for imprisoning voices of dissent, and their confinement can look like the relatively comfortable house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi (though she did suffer imprisonment in more difficult places as well), or it can look like a cell in Insein Prison, Yangon, some of which are literally designed for dogs (and everywhere in between).

Insein Prison itself is pretty notorious for its conditions — including several instances of torture, on top of overall poor healthcare and sanitation. Inmates rarely get treatment for disease or injuries sustained during their incarceration, and as a result, many of them die. These aren’t all rapists and murderers either, many of them are political prisoners. Saw Winston Htoo, a Christian Karen man, and a political prisoner, described his incarceration at Insein as such:

All five of us were put under the Political Prisoners Act. There are three sections: 17/1, 8/3, and 5J. We were sentenced under sections 17/1 and 8/3. They sent us to Insein Prison on March 29, 1990. At Insein, we were put in Ward 5; there are 7 big wards. Ward 5 had eight rooms. I was put in a room 100 feet by 50 feet, while the others were put in different rooms. In my room there were 140 prisoners. Each room has about 15 or 20 political prisoners in among all the others. There was very little room for us to sleep – we all had to keep our bodies straight, and many of us had to sleep on our sides. There were only 5 or 6 sleeping mats in the whole room, so we all had to sleep on the cement floor. They allowed us to have a bath once a day. We had to line up in rows of 5 men at a time, and we were allowed 5 bowls of water, then soap, then 7 more bowls of water. But there were many problems – sometimes there was no water supply, so they wouldn’t let us take a bath and we could hardly even get water to drink. There were latrines in 2 places – outside of the room for the daytime, and in the room at night. The latrines always had guards, and to use them you had to bribe the guard with 2 cheroots. The latrine was just a bucket, with no water. You could use paper if you could get some, but we used to beg scraps of cloth from the men who worked in the sewing workshop out in the compound. he feeding system was like the bathing system – we had to sit 5 in a row while the cooks brought rice, one plate each. Then you go yourself to get bean paste and fishpaste.

In Insein Prison there are about 9,900 or 10,000 prisoners altogether. There are 500 political prisoners, who are in wards 3, 4, and 5, and also in single cells and other special places. In my room, there were 3 or 4 different kinds of prisoners, and more than 20 political prisoners. Some were monks, and students from 1988 sentenced under Section 5J and Section 1221 – high treason, and revolt against the State. We had to work cultivating crops for the jail workers and cleaning the jail wards; as we were political prisoners, they couldn’t send us to do road construction and other work outside the jail. Inside the jail, we got the same treatment as the criminal prisoners. The guards said, “If you’ve come to prison, you must live as a prisoner. All the same.”