Junta's concern over foreign media grows

Apr 24, 2009 (DVB), Strict media control enhances spiritual and intellectual nourishment, says an article in Burma's leading state-run newspaper that speaks of the dangers of foreign media being broadcast into the country via satellite.

An article published today in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper called for the banning of satellite dishes to "protect the people against dangers and harms associatedwith news".

"Satellite programmers are specially designed by major nations to wield influence over the international community in the sphere of the media," wrote Ko Gyi Ngwe Zin Yaw.

The ruling State Peace and Development Council is notoriously fearful of foreign media being circulated inside Burma.

A number of journalists and internet bloggers have been given lengthy prison sentences for publishing material critical of the regime, or communicating with foreign media.

"The military government is always shutting the ears and eyes of people living in Burma," said San Moe Way, secretary of the exiled Burma Media Association.

"That's why they don't want to see or hear foreign media, that's why they fear the foreign media. "They are afraid of people watching the television or reading or hearing news from the radio."

A wave of sentencing for journalists occurred following the September 2007 monk-led protests and last year's cyclone Nargis.

Around 15 journalists are currently imprisoned, some, such as blogger Nay Phone Latt, with sentences of twelve years.

Burma has some of the world's strictest laws regarding media censorship. The country was ranked 170 out of 173 in a press freedom index published by media watchdog Reporters without Borders in 2008.

Following cyclone Nargis, journalists were denied visas to access the country, although some managed to enter on tourist visas.

One month after the cyclone, the New Light of Myanmar led with a story on the "despicable" reporting of the cyclone by foreign media, under the title 'The enemy who is more destructive than Nargis'.

San Moe Way believes the situation will get worse in the run-up to the scheduled elections next year.

"The 2010 elections will see more restrictions," he said.

"They are tightening up on print media. The FM radio stations are being given licenses by government cronies to broadcast propaganda for the military and its own political parties during the elections."

Reporting by Francis Wade

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