Burma - Government seeks at all cost to control news coming out of Irrawaddy delta



    MONTREAL, June 11 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders and the Burma
Media Association, an organisation of Burmese journalists in exile, condemn a
series of measures taken by military government in the past few days to
control news and information coming out of the cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta.
    The blogger and comedian known by the stage name of Zarganar was arrested
without explanation on 5 June. The police began confiscating satellite dishes
on 6 June in order to deny Burmese access to foreign news media. And the
official press published articles denigrating the foreign media on 8 June.
Furthermore, several journalists have been expelled in recent weeks and it has
become impossible to get a press visa.
    "We call for the immediate release of Zarganar, whose arrest is typical
of the contempt shown by military junta towards those who express themselves
freely," the two organisations said. "Zarganar is very well known in Burma. In
his sketches and in the blog he has keep since August 2007
(http://zarganar-windoor.blogspot.com/), he defends human rights and condemns
the junta's behaviour. He had become a source of news and information."
    Zarganar, who has been dubbed the "Burmese Charlie Chaplin," gave an
interview to a foreign TV station on the eve of his arrest in which he
criticised the government and referred to a group of 400 people who have
managed to provide relief assistance to the victims of last month's cyclone
despite a government ban. The group cooperated with another one founded by a
Buddhist month.
    The authorities told Zarganar's family that they would hold him for "only
two days" in order to question him, but he has not been released.
    "Many journalists are being prevented from working freely and the foreign
media are being attacked in the official press, which is trying to discredit
them," Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association said.
"Activists are playing a vital role in providing news and information through
what they are posting online. We condemn the way the authorities are
deliberately trying seal the citizens of the Irrawaddy delta behind a wall of
silence."
    Several foreign journalists, including CNN and Time reporters have been
deported in the past few weeks and others have been refused visas.
    The New Light of Myanmar, a government newspaper, referred to "enemy"
radio stations on 8 June. "The storm is now no more. However, the enemy that
is more destructive than (Cyclone) Nargis has reared its ugly head," the
newspaper said. "It is time (that) the foreign broadcasting stations and their
accomplices knew that their instigation and propaganda are good for nothing.
And they should stop broadcasting such kinds of fabricated news." (See the
Reporters without borders' website)
    According to Burmese exile media reports , the police are also
confiscating the satellite dishes that Burmese citizens use to receive foreign
TV stations. Around 50 dishes were reportedly seized from a Rangoon store on
6 June.
    Burmese censor board banned news and pictures about the cyclone in local
newspaper and monthly magazines but also in foreign magazines, such as the
26th may and 2nd june issues of Times magazine.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive director,
Reporters without borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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