UN chief handpicks reporters for Burma trip

July 3, 2009 (DVB), Coverage of the UN Secretary General's visit to Burma will be provided by five reporters handpicked by Ban Ki-moon himself, a news agency revealed yesterday.

Ban Ki-moon arrives in Burma today amid widespread concern that the trip will achieve little of its intended aim whilst lending valuable legitimacy to an increasingly pilloried regime.

The itinerary of the trip has not been released, although members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party have said they will be meeting with the UN chief.

It remains unclear whether he will meet with the imprisoned NLD leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who today resumes her trial over the incident in which US citizen John Yettaw swam to her lakeside compound where she is held under house arrest.

Investigative news agency Inner City Press reported yesterday however that Ban had said he wants "only particular reporters who cover him at the UN" to cover the Burma trip.

Reporters from newswires Agence France-Presse (AFP), Associated Press (AP) and Reuters, as well as a journalist from the New York Times and one from South Korean agency Yonhap, have been selected to accompany him.

When questioned on the selection process by Inner City Press reporters, the UN chief's spokesperson, Michele Montas, said, although in the past all UN correspondents could request to accompany him on trips, in this case they were refused.

Ban Ki-moon is under huge pressure to deliver results from his two-day visit. Since coming to office in January 2007 he has had a rocky ride with the media, with many accusing him of being too soft.

Speculation about reasons for the selection process for the trip will likely focus whether Ban Ki-moon is indulging in damage limitation during a visit that could also prove costly for the UN's credibility in Burma, and thus his authority in office.

Ban Ki-moon has said he will strongly urge the junta to release all political prisoners and create and environment for free and fair elections next year, although rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, and members of the NLD have said that it is quite possible he will come away with nothing.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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