Govt claims media not restricted in Rakhine State conflict zone
DIRECTLY contradicting the experience of many reporters, including those at The Myanmar Times, Minister for Information U Pe Myint announced yesterday that the media has not been restricted within the conflict areas in Rakhine State. Military officials, however, did acknowledge that they have made reporters delete photos that they have deemed a security risk.
Recent attacks at border posts in Rakhine State left nine officers at three stations dead and prompted a military backlash in Rohingya communities. Information has been hard to come by with rumours flying and delayed responses from the government.
“Regarding those covering the news, we absolutely do not discriminate against people from the media,” U Pe Myint said at a press conference in the capital yesterday.
He did say that reporters may have been warned against going certain places that are not safe.
U Pe Myint said he did not know how some reporters were managing to get news and photos from the northern Rakhine State townships where the attacks took place and the Tatmadaw has been deployed.
Currently, only reporters from The Myanmar Review journal are as close to the fighting as the work being published by state-owned media.
Colonel Zaw Min Tun from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief said that the reporter from The Myanmar Review is a member of the Tatmadaw, so it would not be unusual for him to work in that environment.
President’s Office deputy director general U Zaw Htay said in the press conference that the Review journal reporter’s focus is on conflict areas.
“He is a reporter who covers war news,” he said. “So, he followed the military columns to collect the news … by negotiating with the military.”
U Zaw Htay said that while the government does not limit media, the military does.
Colonel Zaw Min Tun said that some military columns and border guards limited media coverage for the purpose of maintaining security.
“You think that you can take photos when about five soldiers and two border guards are guarding a location. You think there is no problem if you post that photo on Facebook,” he said. “But it is dangerous for us if terrorists see that. For example, if they know what weapons the border guards are holding it makes their ability to plan an attack easier. Similarly, if they know what weapons are being used in a military column they can more easily attack the column. So reporters are forced to delete such photos on security grounds.”
He defended the practice, noting that it is not an attack on media.
“We deleted photos but we do not aim to oppress or limit the media,” he said. “We soldiers have to give priority to our security so that we can keep on protecting the region and the people. We have no other intention. We just consider our security.” – Translation by Win Thaw Tar and Thiri Min Htun
‘We absolutely do not descriminate against people from the media.’
U Pe Myint Minister of information