Friday, May 29, 2009

Media Watchdog Criticizes ‘One-Sided’ Coverage of Suu Kyi Trial

The Irrawaddy News

The international media watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders released a statement on Thursday condemning Burma’s ruling military junta for allowing only one-sided coverage of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a press release dated May 28, the group urged the regime to lift all restrictions on coverage of the trial, in which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate faces charges of violating the terms of her house arrest for allowing an American intruder into her home.

Since the trial began last Monday, Burmese journalists from Rangoon-based publications have complained that they cannot report on it freely due to heavy restrictions on press freedom.

They added that they have been told by the authorities to base their reports on “official” accounts contained in state-run publications such as The New Light of Myanmar. They have also been instructed not to print photos of Suu Kyi.

“We are permitted to publish reports about this news in similar terms to those of the state-run newspapers,” said an editor working with a leading journal in Rangoon, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“We cannot report or quote what we want,” he added. “We can only report [what we’ve been told].”

In an apparent response to complaints about the lack of transparency surrounding the trial, on May 26 the regime allowed 25 Burmese journalists into the courtroom inside Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison. Ten of the journalists worked for Burmese media and 15 were local journalists working for international news agencies.

Ten journalists were previously allowed to attend the trial on May 20.

However, this slight concession to international pressure has done little to convince Suu Kyi’s supporters that she will receive a fair trial.

Nyan Win, a spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy on Friday: “Burmese newspapers are controlled by the military government, and it was the government that charged Aung San Suu Kyi. So we cannot expect a free and fair trial.”

Reporters Without Borders was also unimpressed with the junta’s gesture, which came amid a growing outcry from Western governments and even some of Burma’s Asian neighbors, who have traditionally been reluctant to speak out about the country’s “internal matters.”

“The military government’s gestures of openness towards the media are inconsistent,” said Reporters Without Borders. “Burmese journalists are or are not allowed into the trial at the military’s whim, while foreign journalists are carefully kept away.”

“The Burmese public is not being properly informed as the military’s prior censorship prevents any independent coverage. The lack of transparency makes a fair verdict even more unlikely,” said the group in its press release.

The ban on unauthorized coverage also extends to so-called “citizen journalists,” who have been warned by police stationed outside the prison not to take photos of Suu Kyi or her supporters.

A Burmese journalist in Rangoon who is working with a foreign news agency told The Irrawaddy that he is constantly confronted with difficulties when confirming details deemed by the Burmese authorities to be “sensitive matters.”

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too