Opposition party gets rare news exposure

Oct 19, 2009 (DVB), Several news journals in Burma normally subject to strict censorship rules have published interviews with members of Burma's main opposition party, a party spokesperson said.

News coverage of opposition viewpoints is rare in country which normally ranks at the tail-end of international press freedom barometers.

A spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, Nyan Win, said that journalists from several weekly journals had visited him at his office and carried out interviews.

"They said they were constantly trying to get [the material] published, and sometimes it seems like they get through," he said.

All published material in Burma is required to go through the government's Censorship Board before being verified. The procedure can sometimes take days to complete.

"Under the censorship law in Burma, people are being punished for writing news and material not approved by [the Board]. The censorship law is an oppressive tool and shouldn't exist," he said.

He added that the government needs to do more than sporadic coverage of opposition views to prove that the elections in 2010 are to be free and fair.

"It would only be fair to allow campaigning without censorship," he said. "The fairness of the elections is more important than whether the NLD will participate or not."

Veteran journalist and senior NLD member, Win Tin, welcomed the shift from the government but said it should have taken place long ago.

"Our opinion should be heard as well as voices from foreign media organisations such as the DVB," he said. "Not everybody in Burma owns a radio but when things are published in newspapers, they can read it."

According to a law set in 1989 by the then ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), political parties in Burma are required to register for a press permit before publishing material.

Material submitted by the NLD, which holds a permit, does not have to go through the Censorship Board, but the party has been harassed by authorities in the past for viewpoints expressed in the news.

Media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) last year ranked Burma 170 out of 173 countries in its Press Freedom Index.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

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