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Official press tries to discredit monks

Latest update : 2008-01-08

Two weeks after the Burmese government cracked down on demonstrators, the country's state-run press is finally talking about the protests - calling the monks impostors and pornographers.

The demonstrations against the Burmese junta made headlines around the world - except of course inside the closed, tightly controlled country. It took a month of protests and the military's brutal restoration of order for the three official newspapers, New Light of Myanmar, Myanmar Ahlin and Kyaymon, to finally decide to cover the crisis. In the pro-government New Light of Myanmar, editorials accuse the monks of breaking the law. In the Oct. 9 edition, an editorial justifies the arrests: “It has unfortunately been revealed that in certain monasteries, women live side by side with the monks, not to mention the discovery of pornographic DVDs and magazines,” it writes. Apparently eager to discredit the monks, the author of the article suggests that some of the monks arrested were in fact not monks at all, but troublemakers posing as monks - including the dead monk who appeared in a famous photo circulated round the world. In the pro-junta press, the demonstrators are described as “spies, mercenaries of the Americans,” according to Maung Maung Muint, a journalist for the opposition Burma Media Association, based in Sweden. He does not conceal his worry. “This will worsen conditions for journalists. They’re already not appreciated by the military junta; these events will make it even harder for them to do their job.” In the private Burmese press, the publications are at a loss. “Some publications have no choice but to shut down, rather than serve as a channel for government propaganda,” says Vincent Brossel of Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based organization devoted to protecting journalists. “Other, more powerful publications await a green light from the junta before they can hit the newsstands. In short, nothing gets published.” The harassment has not ceased since the beginning of the crisis. Case in point, six Burmese journalists now share the fate of one of the most famous of the beleaguered Burmese journalists, U Win Tin, behind bars. Arrested in July 1989, he is serving a 20-year sentence for “anti-government propaganda.”

Date created : 2007-10-10

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