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The Burmese media launch campaign to release detained journalists
Myanmar Buddhist friars protested during the "Saffron Revolution" in 2007. "Screen shot ot von Burma Undercover-Aufnahmen". All Hla Hla Win, Sithu Zeya, Maung Maung Zeya, Ngwe Soe Lin and Win Maw are Burma country journalists and all serve prison terms between eight and 27 years after being captured in one of the world's most dramatic press drama networks.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day last May 3rd, the People' s Voice of Burma (DVB) started a drive to free its imprisoned reporters. The Burmese administration and its followers say that a gradual shift from dictatorial domination has been made. However, DVB has argued that in this case it is not only for their work that journalists should be detained and calls on the Burmese Authorities to free the prisoners and calls on international regimes to exert interference or coercion on the Iranian people.
Website users can enter their name in a request for the liberation of newsmen. The Burmese authorities do not recognise the presence of Burmese detainees and say that all those detained in Burmese jails are criminal. In Burma there are about 2,100 Burmese detainees, 17 of whom are DVB-journals.
While DVB only names five of them for safety purposes, it is committed to the release of all newsmen. According to the Committee for the Protection of journalists, Burma has the second highest number of detained journalist per head in all countries of the rich. "We' re considered enemy of the state," said Toe Zaw Latt, a DVB journalist from Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand, who opened the Free VJ (Video Journalists) in Bangkok.
The DVB was founded in 1992 by exiles of political opponents and political opponents to close the news and information gaps within Burma, where the press is either state-run or has to deal with the censorship of the state. It is not normal for international reporters to work in Burma. Mizzima and The Irrawaddy are among Burma's outside news organisations alongside DVB.
They are not able to market in their own country's traditional market place, so they are partly backed by donors and philanthropists to make sure that there is some non-censored Burmese news. In the case of DVB, they provided much of the international film material for the 2007 "Saffron Revolution", when protesting increasing political price levels and later the opposition to the government, civil servants and friars took to the street before a wild armies took action against the demonstrators and arrested them.
While in Bangkok, I took part in DVB's Bangkok media relations and media events, where I saw Aung Htun, one of DVB's journalists working for DVB Group. "Actually, Aung Htun" is his alias because he is afraid of retaliation against his ancestors. When he filmed the 2007 protest, he had a close getaway from the Burmese authorities.
Aung Htun quickly realised that his attendance would attract people' s interest, even though his secret service and informants were probably still watching the place, even though his cameras were concealed and there was no obvious evidence of his secret work. Immediately he was taken to a local administration bureau and the interrogation began.
When a lot of people were gathering outside, apparently in response to the news that someone had been brought in for interrogation, the officers agreed to take Aung Htun to Rangoon City Hall. Aung Htun was most likely dismissed by the government as a trick in the hope that he would take her to other DVB correspondents and uncover a larger group of Burmese secret correspondents.
" Soon after Maung Muang Zeya - one of the five DVB reporter singled out in the election drive - was condemned to 13 years in prison. Human Rights Watch Burma specialist David Mathieson is sceptical that the forth legacy is a loosening of Burma's infamous censorship.
For the first election in two centuries, Burma last November saw the Burmese armed forces and its ally civil parties hold 83 per cent of all new parliamentary seat. All, except four, of the new administration are Armed Forces officers. Nevertheless, the "new" regime, led by a general and premier under the "old" regime, is trying to promote itself as a reformized and reform-oriented state.
The Burmese are among the most destitute in Asia after many years of domestic recession. Today, between 3 million and 5 million Burmese live in Thailand, work in lower professions, and have emigrated to the area. Ten thousand others have been relocated to the United States and other West European nations as part of a programme for displaced persons escaping Burma's repressiveism.
By now, the new administration has already prohibited Skype and other types of web conferencing, which are becoming increasingly popular in Burma due to the high costs of using mobiles and making international phone conversations. Use of the web is low in Burma, and the Burmese authorities control the country's online services provider (ISP), which means that a new media-driven protested campaign modelled on Tunisia or Egypt in Burma is unlikely at the moment.
Burma is ranked as the second poorest state in the worid for the suppression of free web surfing and it is estimated that only 1 per cent of the country's inhabitants have accessibility. Subcover coverage will therefore continue to be critical in bringing news about Burma to the outside community. When the Burmese leaders really move toward reforms and a more free press space, covert coverage will not be necessary, and reporters will not have to spend years in prison covering the news.
Against this background, DVB calls on the new administration to pay tribute to democratisation by liberating them. "There is no such thing as a democratic system that keeps a reporter in prison," said Toe Zaw Latt at the start of the electioneering. The Burmese authorities, however, have a bad track-record of reacting to world advocacy on politics or people.
The launch of an effective publicity drive can help, at least on the basis of a case elsewhere. Inter-Press News Sri Lankan Correspondents Marwaan Macaan Markar said support from groups such as CPJ and Reporters Without Borders is vital to help endangered media professionals in his own countries escape abroad and increase public consciousness of cases where media workers have been imprisoned or subjected to torture.