Exiled media 'should be charged with libel'

Burmese exiled media should be sued for broadcasting a “skyful of lies” in relation to forced recruitment of child soldiers by the ruling junta, state-run media said on Saturday.

The comment in the junta mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper follows coverage by the BBC, Voice of America and DVB of the abduction in January of two teenage boys by the Burmese army.

After the three media groups aired interviews in which a mother of one of the boys, Daw Nwe Nwe, pleaded for his release, soldiers last week showed up at her house with her son.

But, according to the article, the accusations of forced recruitment were “fabricated and false”, and instead one of the boys had willingly joined the army because “he was beaten by his mother”.

“We should understand that the western media has intentionally made fabricated news as a blow to the country,” it said. It also pointed a finger at the role that Aye Myint, head of the Guiding Star legal advocacy group in central Burma, played in the affair.

According to the article, Aye Myint had recorded an interview with Daw Nwe Nwe which he then passed “to foreign media”, as well as uploading onto the internet.

Last night police visited Aye Myint at his house in Bago division and questioned him about the accusations, although he was not arrested.

“I’m not the one recruiting child soldiers to earn money; I’m offering free assistance to those who come to me,” he told DVB. He added that he had also spoken to the mother of another child soldier, and would be releasing footage of this.

“There is nothing to lie about. I would like to tell [the author] to face me and make this clear like a real journalist,” he said.

According to the head of the BBC’s Burmese service, the release may have been an attempt at damage-limitation by the Burmese army following the media attention.

A Human Rights Watch report in 2002 found that the Burmese government was one of the world’s leading recruiters of child soldiers, which made up an estimated 70,000 of a total 400,000 troops.


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