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Myanmar cracks down on media sources: Watchdog

The junta is cracking down on people who speak to international media outlets by tapping phones, media watchdog groups said.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 18:41 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Myanmar's military rulers are cracking down on people who speak to international media outlets by tapping phones and carrying out interrogations of suspected sources, media watchdog groups said on Friday.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiers - RSF) and the Burmese Media Association said the regime's campaign was particularly focused on those who gave information to Burmese-language radio stations.

They said intelligence officials had interrogated journalists, civil servants and businessmen by playing recordings from US-backed Radio Free Asia and other broadcasts to try to get them to admit they spoke to foreign media.

"The paranoia and violence of the Burmese military, especially Than Shwe, the head of the military junta, could have dramatic consequences for Burmese who dare to give information to journalists based abroad," the media watchdog groups said.

"International radio stations are often the only source of independent information for millions of Burmese, and it would do great harm if people were afraid to talk to them."

RSF said that several Myanmar journalists based in the capital Yangon were recently summoned by the information ministry and asked to provide a list of their contacts.

And the rights watchdog said it had learned from exiled Myanmar journalists that their sources inside the country, formerly known as Burma, often had their telephone lines cut after interviews.

Two people had been arrested in the southern city of Moulmein for having received "suspicious" international calls on their mobile phones, RSF said.

Myanmar's military government, shunned by many in the international community, has ruled the impoverished country since 1962.

First Published: Feb 10, 2006 18:41 IST