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State agency stops providing Aung San Suu Kyi photos; football coverage restricted

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - The State-run Myanmar News Agency (MNA) as of January 2010 has stopped providing photographs of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to publications, editors of local journals in Rangoon said.

The MNA is a government-controlled agency under the News and Periodical Enterprise of the Ministry of Information and Publicity. It has exclusive rights to produce photographs of top-level government activities and also acts as an agency releasing the government's news and information.

The MNA, unlike the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board, does not censor the contents of publications, but collects information and releases them on behalf of the government.

As the sole agency with the right to take pictures of government-arranged events including meetings of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and government officials, local weeklies in Rangoon rely on the MNA for pictures to be carried with their stories.

"The MNA stopped providing pictures though the censor board allows us to use it. I think they have been instructed not to do so," an editor of a local weekly in Rangoon told Mizzima.

"Since we are unable to get new pictures, we have to use old (file) photos. So far there has been no notice restricting the use of pictures," another editor said.

While running a story on the latest meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta's Liaison Minister, Aung Kyi, on 15 January, "The Voice Weekly" had to do without any photographs in its latest issue.

Previously, for meetings between the Burmese opposition leader and visiting US delegates or the government's Liaison Minister, the MNA provided photographs to the weeklies.

In its 16 January issue, the "Weekly 11" journal also carried the story of Aung San Suu Kyi's meeting with Aung Kyi, but had to use a file picture.

Meanwhile, with the Burmese censor board filtering and censoring publications and weeklies from publishing information critical of the regime and politically sensitive issues, the Myanmar Football Federation (MFF), chaired by one of the junta's business cronies, Zaw Zaw, has begun restricting local weeklies from covering football tournaments by limiting the number of journalists allowed into official briefings and stadiums.

A source close to the MFF told Mizzima that it introduced the restrictions because the Burmese media in exile have been reporting on frequent fights and brawls among football players or fans.

The MFF has announced that weeklies interested in covering MFF events would be allowed to register only one reporter and a photo journalist at their office. The journalists must seek prior accreditation with the MFF.

The MFF's move in restricting journalists is interfering with freedom of expression, veteran journalist Win Tin said.

"The MFF is also restricting journalists' freedom. Sports are also important for the media. I fear that in future there will be more restrictions in politics, and in the socio-economic sector," Win Tin added.

"We were told that limiting the number of journalists covering MFF events was because the media in exile are publishing and broadcasting frequent fights and brawls on the football ground. I think the government wants to hide what is happening on the ground," a Rangoon-based journalist told Mizzima.

On 17 January, a fight broke out during the match between Yangon United, owned by Burmese business tycoon Tayza, and the current Myanmar National League (MNL) champion Yadanabon Club. Authorities had to deploy over 100 security officers to quell the disturbances.

While local weeklies in Rangoon were restricted from reporting the incident, the Burmese media in exile reported it widely.

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