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Burma’s information ministry in new email campaign

July 27, 2009 (DVB), The Ministry of Information in Burma has begun emailing government-generated newsletters to exiled Burmese activists and journalists in an attempt to counter news-sharing by exiled opposition groups.

The website responsible for the emails is the Kyaymon online newspaper, run by the government's Ministry of Information, which carries headlines such as 'Shame on you Clinton' and 'America's ugly failure in the ASEAN summit'.

When approached by DVB, the assistant editor of Kyaymon, Aung Kyaw Thwin, said that the action was entirely orchestrated by the government.

"We have been sending you newsletters under direction from our information minister and there is no personal motive behind this," he said.

Burma's information minister, Brigadier General Kyaw Hasn, has reportedly sent out instructions to all media workers in Burma that include statements such as "strive for realization of the seven-step Road Map through media" and "train better qualified press workers who favour the profit of the nation".

A UK-based Burmese journalist, Bo Bo Lan Sin, said that the newsletters were actually a refreshing alternative to other more generic government news.

"[Kyaymon] newsletters are not that boring; the more news variety than the government blogs," he said, adding that he had only recently found out who was sending the emails.

His comments were echoed by the secretary of the Burma Media Association, San Moe Wei.

"The whole thing is clear; they are sending out the newsletters because no one bothers to go on to their websites and read their news," he said.

State-run media, such as the Myanma Ahlin newspaper, is loaded with news on ribbon-cutting ceremonies and editorials penned by pro-government journalists.

Burma's media environment is amongst the most repressive in the world, with media watchdog Reporters Without Borders last year ranking it 170 out of 173 in its annual Press Freedom Index.

Media laws are very tough, and journalists inside Burma face severe punishment if seen to be criticising the government.

Media workers are often under strict surveillance, with internet café owners forced to take screen-shots of each computers every five mintues which are then sent to the Ministry of Information.

"It's easy for them to get a hold of our email addresses; they surf through blogs and find out which internet user is 'politically concerned'", said Burmese blogger, Mr Thinker.

"The media in exile has been using this newsletter method to spread their information and now [the government] has begun to do the same thing."

It is unclear how many people the government is targeting in this campaign, although the email received by DVB had been sent to around 400 other addresses.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat


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