MONTREAL, June 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders and the Burma
Media Association are outraged by a wave of arrests of Burmese journalists,
some just for helping the victims of Cyclone Nargis, and call for their
release. They also call for press visas to be issued to foreign journalists.
"The international community, including the United Nations, has succeeded
in persuading the military government to open the country to humanitarian
aid," the two organisations said. "It is now essential to get the junta to
stop preventing civil society, including the press, from participating in the
They added : "By preventing journalists from working, the junta is trying
to make people forget its disastrous management of the crisis. It has
partially succeeded, as international public opinion has lost interest in the
fate of the hundreds of thousands of Burmese who were hit by the cyclone
because of the lack of TV footage and news reports."
Myanmar Tribune editor Aung Kyaw San has been arrested and his magazine
closed because of his humanitarian work in cyclone-hit areas. He was arrested
on 15 June along with sixteen other people for burying the bodies of victims
near Bogale. According to friends, this team of volunteers buried more than
400 bodies in accordance with Red Cross procedures.
They were arrested while returning to Rangoon to pick up new sacks for
burying victims. Five of them, including Aung Kyaw San, are still being held
in Insein prison. Journalist Zaw Thet Htwe and a blogger known as Zarganar are
also being held for helping Cyclone Nargis victims. Zarganar was arrested
after giving an interview to a BBC reporter (http://www.youtube.com/watch
Ma Ein Khine Oo, a 23-year-old journalist working for Ecovision Journal,
was arrested on 10 June while covering a demonstration by cyclone victims
outside the UNDP compound in Rangoon. She is still being held at the Tamwe
police station pending trial. She was charged today under article 505 (b),
which makes "comments that mislead the public" punishable by imprisonment.
At least 10 journalists and a blogger are currently detained in Burma -
three of them for providing assistance to cyclone victims.
South Korean journalist Lee Yu Kyong was deported on 22 June after going
to the headquarters of the National League for Democracy, the opposition party
led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Lee told the Burmese exile Mizzima News that police
officers came to her hotel and told her she had to leave the country at once.
The police confiscated CDs containing photos of cyclone-hit areas. Officials
at the airport stamped "Deported" in her passport.
Around 10 foreign journalists have been banned from entering Burma or
deported since Cyclone Nargis hit the country at the start of May. The
authorities are still refusing to grant press visas and military checkpoints
have been installed on several roads into the delta region, the worst-hit
area. Burmese have been questioned or arrested for helping foreign journalists
to travel to cyclone-hit areas.
For further information:
For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, firstname.lastname@example.org