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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Burma

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Burma, February 1999, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
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.

As of December 31, 1998

Burma remains one of the world's most closed regimes, with no independent local media and little opportunity for foreign reporters to penetrate the veil of repression. Senior Gen. Than Shwe, head of the ruling military junta, earned a place among CPJ's annual 10 worst Enemies of the Press.

The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and its intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, marked the 10th anniversary of its brutal 1988 coup by stifling dissent, arresting opponents, and further isolating the country. There are no independent, privately held newspapers or broadcast outlets. Fax machines, computer modems, satellite dishes, and videotape recorders are strictly licensed; unlicensed owners risk heavy fines and prison sentences. A handful of journalists who began their careers in the 1950s when journalism could still be practiced in the country now work for foreign news agencies. But they practice self-censorship for fear they'll be arrested if they report stories that anger the junta.

Local reporters and most foreign media continue to be barred from interviewing the country's opposition leader, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Many foreign correspondents find it impossible to obtain required work visas, and those who enter on tourist visas are deported if they are caught working as journalists. Even those with official accreditation report being followed by government agents and having great difficulty meeting with opposition leaders, whose movements are closely monitored by the military. According to an exile magazine, the Irawaddy News, Daw San San, a senior member of Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was sentenced to 20 years in prison because she spoke on the telephone to a reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Given the absence of local independent media, the public remains heavily dependent on short-wave radio broadcasts from the BBC, VOA, Radio Free Asia, and the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma for reliable news of their country.

Stung by worldwide censure for its information policies and dismal human rights record, the junta has lashed out at critics, accusing Western media of attempting to subvert the country. "The West Bloc and their media are trying to disturb stability, disrupt (the) economy and unity, and incite unrest in countries which do not accept their influence," said Minister of Information Maj. Gen. Kyi Aung in July in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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