Last Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014, 16:37 GMT

Arrest, censorship and manipulation amid trial of Aung San Suu Kyi

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 26 June 2009
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Arrest, censorship and manipulation amid trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, 26 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a4debfdc.html [accessed 29 July 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 today condemned the military junta for intimidating the press trying to cover recent national and international events, as a journalist was jailed for two years after being arrested near the home of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Since the UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Burma one might expect greater tolerance on the part of the authorities, but on the contrary, the trial of Suu Kyi is being held in a climate of repression and censorship," the press freedom organisations said.

"We call on the UN envoy to show firmness in his talks with the authorities, including on the release of all political prisoners and an end to prior censorship. Without this, there can be no approval of any reconciliation process or elections," they said.

The two organisations strongly condemned the two-year sentence imposed on freelance journalist Zaw Tun on 18 June. A former journalist with the magazine The News Watch, he was arrested near the Suu Kyi's home by a police officer who claimed he had shown "hostility" towards him. He was found guilty at a court in Bahan, near Rangoon, of obstructing the work of an official. A Rangoon journalist said that Zaw Tun was taken immediately to jail after the verdict.

Military intelligence agents on 23 June went to several media offices to demand lists of journalists who had taken part in journalism training sessions at the US Embassy in Rangoon.

The renowned journalist U Win Tin, who was cited as a defence witness in the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under constant surveillance by the special police. The prosecutor refused to accept the former political prisoner as a witness because he criticises the government, particularly in foreign media.

The junta has imposed strict censorship on both national and international news items. The censorship bureau, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, banned the publication of news on the arrival of a North Korean cargo ship, Kang Nam 1, in a port near Rangoon, which is suspected of transporting weapons.

A journalist in Rangoon told the magazine Irrawaddy that "most newspapers have tried to report on the arrival of the cargo vessel but the government censor rejected all the articles".

The censorship bureau also banned some articles on demonstrations that followed the disputed elections in Iran.

The press was refused the right at the start of June to publish information about the investigation into the collapse of the Danoke pagoda in Dala, near Rangoon, in which several people died. "We cannot publish articles or photos about this incident, because it was the wife of [junta leader] General Than Shwe who installed the sunshade on the pagoda on 7 May 2009", one journalists explained. She is known to be very superstitious.

The censorship bureau on 1st June threatened the privately owned weekly True News for carrying an article in its 19 May issue by the famous journalist Ludu Sein Win who said that "many governments cannot tolerate criticism from journalists". The censors alleged that the paper changed the front page after it had been passed by the censors.

Reporters Without Borders revealed at the end of 2008 that the censorship bureau sent all media offices a document detailing ten rules imposed on editors, who would be punished if changes were made after the article had been checked.

The state-run media reported the charges against Suu Kyi, without giving anything the full statements by the defence. The daily New Light of Myanmar reported the main developments in the trial insisting there was complicity between the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the American William Yetaw, who swam to her lakeside home on 3 May. In its 27 May edition, the daily published the full questioning of Suu Kyi by the judge, but the cross examination by defence lawyers were only briefly summarised in the official press.

The state press also relays the junta's threats against the opposition, as happened on 5 June, when the New Light of Myanmar carried threats by the authorities against the youth branch of the National League for Democracy for putting out a statement.

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