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Election ‘preparation’ barred from media

Jan 20, 2010 (DVB), Burmese media has been banned from publishing material covering political groups' preparations for the elections this year, while news of the elections themselves is allowed.

The censoring has targeted parties belonging to the 'third force' in Burmese politics; those neither aligned to the incumbent nor opposition groups, said potential runner Phyo Min Thein, who recently organized a discussion forum on Burmese politics in Rangoon.

"Basically, [the junta] is blocking its opponents from exercising their rights and is looking to manipulate the [political] playground for itself," he said.

A veteran news editor in Rangoon said that reporting on activities to do with the elections is not likely to be allowed until the elections laws and laws regarding the formation of political organisations are announced.

He added however that even when laws are announced, the media will be allowed only limited scope to report on the events.

His comments were echoed by the secretary of the Burma Media Association, San Moe Wei, who said that the delay in announcing the elections laws and date was deliberate, and will give the media "limited freedom, to report on events".

"[The government] was once defeated in the 1990 elections, so it seems like they will be very careful not to make the same mistakes this time," he added.

Other political activists in Rangoon speculated that media reports on the elections were not yet allowed because the government was still working to persuade credible and influential political figures, who are not government-backed, to join the elections as individual parliamentary representatives.

Veteran Burmese politician and former ambassador to China, Thakin Chan Htun, said that Burma should model its elections on that of neighbouring countries.

"I would like to urge leaders of the [army] to hold the elections the way Bangladesh did, where the country's polls were praised by the international community as free and fair," he said.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat


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