|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
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.