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The already blacklisted CNN television reporter deported from Burma on 27 March has said that a clerical error at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok may have been responsible for his initial admittance.
Dan Rivers was arrested after arriving at the remote capital Naypyidaw to cover Burma’s annual Armed Forces Day (or Resistance Day), and then quickly expelled.
It is the second time he has been told to leave the country, following his deportation after covering the aftermath of cyclone Nargis in 2008. Following this he was placed on a blacklist, where names of banned persons are automatically flagged up at immigration checkpoints.
“I can only presume the embassy in Bangkok had made a mistake in issuing the visa in the first place,” he wrote yesterday in his CNN blog.
“It is perhaps a microcosm of the mismanagement of the entire country that has been ailing under a military dictatorship since 1962. Civil servants are terrified of their bosses, and their bosses in turn are paralyzed with fear of the generals above them. Small errors go uncorrected because no one dares to speak out.”
Correspondents from other foreign news agencies, such as the BBC and Japan’s NHK and Asahi Shimbun, were allowed to cover the Armed Forces Day, which marks the start of the Burmese army’s resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945.
The Burmese government is notoriously vigilant about who it issues visas to. During sensitive times, such as the cyclone aftermath or the September 2007 monk-led uprising, foreign journalists are often barred from entering the country.
Zin Linn, vice chairman of the Burma Media Association, said that the ruling generals “only wanted [reporters] to sit at a table and take note of what they say; they only want them to focus on the [Armed Forces Day] event”.
“However, for the big news agencies, everything they lay their eyes on can be turned into news,” he said. “The government may be worried that [the reporters] will write detailed news on what is really going on in the background and that’s why it selectively approves only reporters they want.”