Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Burma Bans North Korea Ship News

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s military-controlled censorship board has banned all journals and magazines from publishing news about a North Korean ship which will soon dock near Rangoon and is believed to be carrying arms for Burma.

Weekly newspapers such as Weekly Eleven, 7 days, Yangon Times and The Voice have tried to translate and publish articles based on foreign media sources about the voyage of the cargo ship, which is being tracked by a United States destroyer.

A Rangoon editor told The Irrawaddy, “Most journals tried to print something about the voyage of the North Korea ship, but the Burmese Censorship Board rejected all the stories.”

In Burma, all news outlets inside the country fall under the strict surveillance of the state censorship board under the Ministry of Information—officially known as the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division—and are also held in check by various publication laws.

Prior censorship is imposed on all local media and is strictly applied against any news that might cast the government in a bad light.

The North Korean ship, Kang Nam 1, is believed to be carrying arms for the military government. It departed from the North Korean port of Nampo one week ago, and the USS John S. McCain destroyer has tracked it as it passed along the Chinese coast.

Burmese citizens are relying on foreign-based radio stations for news of the cargo ship, sources said.

A 40-year-old Rangoon resident said, “The BBC, VOA and other international broadcasting agencies air news about the ship. Most Burmese people are very interested in it because a US military vessel is involved.”

According to a port official in Rangoon, the North Korean ship will dock at Thilawa port, some 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Rangoon, in the next few days.

The Kang Nam 1 docked at the port in 2004, at that time raising suspicions about the nature of its cargo. Speculation centered on convention arms, missiles or some type of nuclear weaponry.

In 2007, two Burmese journalists working for the Japanese television news agency Nippon News Network (NNN) were arrested and detained for two nights and three days for covering the arrival of the Kang Nam 1, which docked secretly at the Thilawa port, saying it was seeking refuge from a storm and in need of supplies.

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