Thursday, 22 May 2008

8 Burmese Journalists Arrested in Laputta

The Irrawaddy News

Eight Burmese journalists who were trying to cover the cyclone disaster in Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy delta were arrested on Monday night by Burmese soldiers and detained for one night, according to sources in Rangoon.

Those arrested included journalists from The Voice journal, Yangon Times and 7 Day News journal.

A Rangoon-based colleague of one of the detained journalists told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday: “Soldiers came and arrested them at their hotel about 11 p.m. The soldiers accused the eight reporters of failing to inform the authorities of their presence in Laputta and then arrested them.

“The soldiers deleted all the photographs the journalists had taken,” the source said. “The soldiers threatened the journalists and swore at them.”

The eight journalists were interrogated all night by the soldiers, who were reportedly assigned to Light Infantry Division 66, said the source.

The journalists were released the following morning at about 7 a.m. after signing an agreement with the authorities that they would not return to cyclone-affected areas again without military authorization.

Since the cyclone of May 2-3, the Burmese military authorities have further tightened their strict code of censorship and restrictions on journals and publications in Burma, said the source.

“Only positive stories are allowed. Photos about refugees, victims and children are always rejected,” said the source in Rangoon. “The censorship board will only allow propaganda stories and photos, such as reconstruction projects, to be published.”

All publications are banned from printing the rising death toll from Cyclone Nargis, added the source.

Meanwhile, owners of guest houses in Laputta and Bogalay have been ordered to submit their guest registers to local authorities and report any arrivals of strangers, foreigners or persons from organizations that could be aid-related.

The Burmese military government announced on May 9 that it would permit supplies and aid from the international community to the affected regions, but that no foreigners or persons without permits could enter the cyclone-affected areas in the Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon Division.

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