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Reporters banned from photographing storm damage

May 17, 2008 (DVB), Local authorities have imposed a strict ban on Burmese photojournalists taking pictures of damage caused by Cyclone Nargis and the dire conditions of storm victims.

According to a photojournalist who went to Bogalay and other areas of the Irrawaddy delta, reporters were told to take pictures of the generals giving aid and helping the victims instead.

"When we went to the villages, we were told not to take photographs, and we were told not to take the pictures of the corpses. We were not allowed to go into alleys," the photojournalist said.

'"We were told to take the pictures of them feeding and helping the refugees. We could only take the pictures they wanted us to take," he said.

"How could we give the true news when we are not allowed to take pictures of what is really happening? It is an insult to us; we want people to know and see what is going on."

Refugees in the area said the ban would make it more difficult to convince people to send the necessary assistance.

"If the real news is not being shown, we refugees are in more trouble. People can't come and help us," one refugee said.

"If the people who want to help do not know about us, we are in real trouble," said another.

"People are very angry at the government. People know about all their lies and don't believe them – they are not showing what really happened."

San Moe Wai of the Myanmar News Union said reporters should be allowed to present a full picture of the crisis.

"News reports about the storm victims need to be as transparent as possible," he said.

"Only then will help be given to the victims. What they are doing now is a big mistake."

Members of the literary and media circles in Rangoon also said the SPDC has imposed a ban on reporting the misery and destruction caused by the cyclone, and the censor board has warned Burmese news journals and magazine editors to emphasis the ways the junta is helping people.

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min

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