Friday, May 22, 2009

Burmese journalists restricted in trial reporting

(DVB)–Burmese journalists reporting on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi are being prevented from publishing detail other than that already being said in government media, according to a journal editor in Rangoon.

On Wednesday, the Burmese government surprised observers by allowing 10 journalists – five from international agencies and five domestic - and around 30 foreign diplomats into the courtroom where Suu Kyi is facing charges of breaching her house arrest.

A news journal editor in Rangoon said that two private-owned media organisations in Burma, Bi-Weekly journal and Myanmar Times, who were among the five domestic publications allowed inside the courtroom faced heavy restrictions in their reporting.

“All the facts included in Bi-Weekly journal’s coverage were the same as the government newspapers, apart from a small difference in writing style and the headline,” said the editor, speaking under condition of anonymity.

“There was nothing new from what was aired on government television MRTV on Wednesday evening.”

All publications in Burma face strict censoring from the government’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division board.

Articles are often required to be sent to the board for censoring days prior to publication.

The deputy director of exile-based Burma Media Association said the junta’s allowing of foreign and inside news reporters inside Wednesday’s court hearing was merely a trick to convince the international community that press freedom exists in the country.

“[The junta] did it to ease pressure from the international community and to maintain the support they receive from the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], Russia and China, who have always been backing them,” said Zin Linn.

“That wasn’t a gesture of press freedom but merely their use of the media as a tool to protect their own profit.”

Last year, Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Burma 170 out 173 countries in their Press Freedom Index. Journalists in Burma are regularly imprisoned, some with sentences of 20 years.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

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