Rangoon – Private weekly journals in Burma have been ordered by the press scrutiny board not to run any story that depicts the destruction but to cover the reconstruction exercise undertaken by the authorities in the aftermath of the cyclone that pummeled Rangoon and Irrawaddy delta areas, according to local journalists.
“We were told by the scrutiny board not to cover the news of destruction. But, were told to cover the reconstruction they are doing,” an editor of a weekly told Mizzima on condition of anonymity for fear of junta’s reprisal for telling the outside media.
The authorities are reportedly angry with the head of the censor board, Major Tint Swe, for having passed some cyclone stories that described the damage to buildings and loss of property with pictures.
The head of military junta Senior General Than Shwe flared up when he found a front page story from the Bi-weekly Eleven news journal that said, “The plight of storm victims should not be exploited.”
“As Myanmar [Burmese] readers are clever enough to read between the lines, they immediately realized that the story did criticize the junta that has been showing how kind they are in helping the victims by using international aids as theirs,” said a journalist.
An editor said that the censor board cannot control Weekly Eleven or Bi-weekly news journals since there are some generals behind the scenes. Which is why, Major Tint Swe tried to tell the boss of Eleven Media group this is a direct order from the ministry of communication for all weekly journals.
“We were also warned that we must not describe how people are starving for lack of food,” one senior journalist, who has five years experience in reporting, told Mizzima.
The Burma Media Association, a Burmese press freedom watchdog, condemned the junta for the restriction imposed saying it not only violates press freedom but also violates and suppresses the peoples’ rights.
“The Burmese government is trying to conceal the sufferings of the people and making false claims that they are conducting rescue and relief missions,” Son Moe Wai, Secretary of the BMA said.
A journalist, who returned from the worst hit areas, said she found nothing being reconstructed there by the junta.
“So, what should we cover under the title — ‘reconstruction phase’?” she asked, “They [soldiers] haven’t even finished clearing the towns yet let alone undertake the reconstruction phase.”
“Journalists are meant to tell the truth so that people will know of the situation in Burma. Suppressing the press at this time is outrageous and shameful,” Son Moe Wai said.