Govt claims me­dia not re­stricted in Rakhine State con­flict zone

The Myanmar Times - - News - PYAE THET PHYO pyae­thet­phyo@mm­times.com

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

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