Monday, May 4, 2009

Junta Censors Nargis Anniversary Reports

The Irrawaddy News


Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) has severely restricted Rangoon weekly journals publishing reports marking the anniversary of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated the southwest of the country on May 2-3 last year, leaving about 140,000 people dead in its wake.

According to several editors and reporters, the notoriously draconian censorship board did not allow reports to carry any criticism of the Nargis recovery effort by the military government, United Nations’ organizations, International NGOs and local NGOs.

“More than a third of Nargis stories were prohibited from being published,” said a Rangoon-based journalist. “Burmese reporters have no right to investigate a story freely.”

He claimed that, currently, the PSRD will only allow journals to publish articles that portray positive aspects of the Burmese military authorities, even if the stories are untrue.

In the weeks after the deadly cyclone struck Burma last year, 21 volunteer aid workers, including journalists, were arrested for assisting victims of the cyclone.

More recently, two journalists—Myat Tun and Ko Khin Maung—of the exiled media group Narinjara Independent Arakan News Agency, were arrested in Arakan State, according to Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP). At least 50 Burmese journalists currently languish in Burmese prisons, according to AAPP.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a press release on April 30 that Burma is the worst place in the world to be a blogger because the military authorities severely restricts Internet access and imposes harsh prison sentences on persons who post material critical of the government.

Meanwhile, in Washington on Sunday, US President Barack Obama said that, each year, hundreds of journalists around the world face intimidation, censorship and arbitrary arrest, although they “are guilty of nothing more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a free society depends on an informed citizenry.

“In every corner of the globe, there are journalists in jail or being actively harassed: from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, Burma to Uzbekistan, Cuba to Eritrea,” he said.

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