Suu Kyi trial held in 'climate of censorship'

June 30, 2009 (DVB), Media watchdogs have condemned the sentencing of a Burmese journalist reporting on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, and said that coverage of the trial is "very much biased" with reporters subject to intimidation.

The Suu Kyi trial, now in its seventh week, is being held behind closed doors in a courtroom inside Rangoon's Insein prison.

Diplomats and reporters working for both international and domestic agencies were allowed access to two court sessions in May, although Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party said the move was merely "a gesture" at open hearings.

Yesterday, Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Thailand-based Burma Media Association (BMA) released a statement saying the trial was being held "in a climate of repression and censorship".

Last year RSF ranked Burma 170 out of 173 on their Press Freedom Index, narrowly above North Korea, Eritrea and Turkmenistan.

Reporting on the Suu Kyi trial has been thwarted by "a clear intention to prevent any independent coverage," said Vincent Brossel, head of the RSF Asia desk.

He added that private news organizations were being denied "any sort of pro-Suu Kyi view or any independent view on the issue", the result being that coverage by all organisations is "very much biased".

Regarding the fake pictures used on a pro-government website of US citizen John Yettaw, whose visit to Suu Kyi's compound in May sparked the trial, BMA's San Moe Wei said that the government is "trying to create misunderstanding".

"We are against this standard," he said.

Both RSF and BMA also condemned the charges brought against journalist Zaw Tun, who reported on the trial and was sentenced to two years imprisonment after being arrested near Suu Kyi's home in Rangoon.

The sentencing of Zaw Tun is just one of the many punishments handed out to silence people from reporting on politically-sensitive events in Burma.

According to the exiled Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), the latest figures show that there are 42 media activists currently being detained in prisons around Burma.

Some cases of Political Prisoner continue to be accompanied with reports of unfair trials, lengthy sentences and torture, meaning that "some journalists are scared", according to San Moe Wei.

Reporting by Daniella Nayu

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