Last Updated: Friday, 17 October 2014, 15:58 GMT

Government seeks at all cost to control news coming out of Irrawaddy delta

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 11 June 2008
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Government seeks at all cost to control news coming out of Irrawaddy delta, 11 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4852276e1a.html [accessed 20 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association, an organisation of Burmese journalists in exile, condemn a series of measures taken by military government in the past few days to control news and information coming out of the cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta

The blogger and comedian known by the stage name of Zarganar was arrested without explanation on 5 June. The police began confiscating satellite dishes on 6 June in order to deny Burmese access to foreign news media. And the official press published articles denigrating the foreign media on 8 June. Furthermore, several journalists have been expelled in recent weeks and it has become impossible to get a press visa.

"We call for the immediate release of Zarganar, whose arrest is typical of the contempt shown by military junta towards those who express themselves freely," the two organisations said. "Zarganar is very well known in Burma. In his sketches and in the blog he has keep since August 2007 (http://zarganar-windoor.blogspot.com/), he defends human rights and condemns the junta's behaviour. He had become a source of news and information."

Zarganar, who has been dubbed the "Burmese Charlie Chaplin," gave an interview to a foreign TV station on the eve of his arrest in which he criticised the government and referred to a group of 400 people who have managed to provide relief assistance to the victims of last month's cyclone despite a government ban. The group cooperated with another one founded by a Buddhist month.

The authorities told Zarganar's family that they would hold him for "only two days" in order to question him, but he has not been released. "Many journalists are being prevented from working freely and the foreign media are being attacked in the official press, which is trying to discredit them," Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association said. "Activists are playing a vital role in providing news and information through what they are posting online. We condemn the way the authorities are deliberately trying seal the citizens of the Irrawaddy delta behind a wall of silence."

Several foreign journalists, including CNN and Time reporters have been deported in the past few weeks and others have been refused visas.

The New Light of Myanmar, a government newspaper, referred to "enemy" radio stations on 8 June. "The storm is now no more. However, the enemy that is more destructive than (Cyclone) Nargis has reared its ugly head," the newspaper said. "It is time (that) the foreign broadcasting stations and their accomplices knew that their instigation and propaganda are good for nothing. And they should stop broadcasting such kinds of fabricated news." (See below)

According to Burmese exile media reports , the police are also confiscating the satellite dishes that Burmese citizens use to receive foreign TV stations. Around 50 dishes were reportedly seized from a Rangoon store on 6 June.

The Burmese board of censors has banned news and pictures about the cyclone not only in local newspapers and monthly magazines but also in foreign magazines, such as the 26 May and 2 June issues of Time magazine.

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