Reporters Without Borders
Burma Media Association
29 June 2009
/EIN News/ BURMA
Arrest, censorship and manipulation amid trial of Aung San Suu Kyi
Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association today
condemned the military junta for intimidating the press trying to cover recent national and international events, as a journalist was jailed for two years after being arrested near the home of Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Since the UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Burma one might expect greater tolerance on the part of the authorities, but on the
contrary, the trial of Suu Kyi is being held in a climate of repression and censorship,” the press freedom organisations said.
“We call on the UN envoy to show firmness in his talks with the
authorities, including on the release of all political prisoners and
an end to prior censorship. Without this, there can be no approval of any reconciliation process or elections,” they said.
The two organisations strongly condemned the two-year sentence
imposed on freelance journalist Zaw Tun on 18 June. A former
journalist with the magazine The News Watch, he was arrested near the Suu Kyi’s home by a police officer who claimed he had shown ‘hostility’ towards him. He was found guilty at a court in Bahan, near Rangoon, of obstructing the work of an official. A Rangoon journalist said that Zaw Tun was taken immediately to jail after the verdict.
Military intelligence agents on 23 June went to several media offices
to demand lists of journalists who had taken part in journalism training sessions at the US Embassy in Rangoon.
The renowned journalist U Win Tin, who was cited as a defence witness
in the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under constant surveillance by the special police. The prosecutor refused to accept the former political prisoner as a witness because he criticises the government, particularly in foreign media.
The junta has imposed strict censorship on both national and
international news items. The censorship bureau, the Press Scrutiny
and Registration Division, banned the publication of news on the arrival of a North Korean cargo ship, Kang Nam 1, in a port near Rangoon, which is suspected of transporting weapons.
A journalist in Rangoon told the magazine Irrawaddy that “most
newspapers have tried to report on the arrival of the cargo vessel
but the government censor rejected all the articles”.
The censorship bureau also banned some articles on demonstrations
that followed the disputed elections in Iran.
The press was refused the right at the start of June to publish
information about the investigation into the collapse of the Danoke
pagoda in Dala, near Rangoon, in which several people died. “We cannot publish articles or photos about this incident, because it was the wife of [junta leader] General Than Shwe who installed the sunshade on the pagoda on 7 May 2009”, one journalists explained. She is known to be very superstitious.
The censorship bureau on 1st June threatened the privately owned
weekly True News for carrying an article in its 19 May issue by the
famous journalist Ludu Sein Win who said that “many governments
cannot tolerate criticism from journalists”. The censors alleged that
the paper changed the front page after it had been passed by the
Reporters Without Borders revealed at the end of 2008 that the
censorship bureau sent all media offices a document detailing ten
rules imposed on editors, who would be punished if changes were made after the article had been checked.
The state-run media reported the charges against Suu Kyi, without
giving anything the full statements by the defence. The daily New
Light of Myanmar reported the main developments in the trial insisting there was complicity between the Nobel Peace Prize laureate
and the American William Yetaw, who swam to her lakeside home on 3
May. In its 27 May edition, the daily published the full questioning
of Suu Kyi by the judge, but the cross examination by defence lawyers
were only briefly summarised in the official press.
The state press also relays the junta�s threats against the
opposition, as happened on 5 June, when the New Light of Myanmar
carried threats by the authorities against the youth branch of the National League for Democracy for putting out a statement.