Watchdog slams Burma's trial reporting

May 29, 2009 (DVB), The Burmese government's media coverage of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi has been one-sided, with gestures of openness toward media "inconsistent", said a media watchdog yesterday.

On two separate occasions, Burmese working for both domestic and foreign media have been allowed inside the courtroom where the opposition leader is on trial for allegedly breaching conditions of her house arrest.

But international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) yesterday urged the government to lift all restrictions on reporting the trial, saying that "Burmese media are not able to cover it freely".

"Burmese journalists are or are not allowed into the trial at the military's whim while foreign journalists are carefully kept away," they said.

"Even with this limited access, the Burmese public is not being properly informed as the military's prior censorship prevents any independent coverage."

The ruling junta in Burma are notoriously strict when it comes to media freedom, with all publications requiring censoring from the government's Press Scrutiny and Registration Division board.

Articles are often required to be sent to the board for censoring days prior to publication.

Last week a news journal editor in Rangoon said that two private-owned media organisations in Burma, Bi-Weekly journal and Myanmar Times, who were among the five domestic publications allowed inside the courtroom last week faced heavy restrictions in their reporting.

"All the facts included in Bi-Weekly journal's coverage were the same as the government newspapers, apart from a small difference in writing style and the headline," said the editor, speaking under condition of anonymity.

"There was nothing new from what was aired on government television MRTV on Wednesday evening."

According to RSF, private-owned journals in Burma were sent a note from the information ministry warning them not to distort the official version of the trial.

In this context, RSF said, "the lack of transparency makes a fair verdict even more unlikely."

Reporting by Francis Wade and Ahunt Phone Myat

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