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More journalists attacked, threatened and media access deteriorates as protests, crackdown continue

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Journalists in Rangoon are reporting a rapidly deteriorating situation for covering the sporadic protests and brewing crisis in Burma.

One week after the breakout of rare public protests over rising fuel prices, and within days of a resulting government crackdown on activists and oppositionists, SEAPA is receiving troubling news that the work of journalists and the flow of information inside the country are being further restricted.

The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB - a non-profit media organization based in Oslo, Norway) reported that, on 22 August 2007, a local journalist had his camera confiscated and destroyed by thugs deployed by the government. The following day, a Reuters correspondent was physically threatened and pushed away by a similar group as he tried to cover a protest getting underway, according to the DVB. Other local journalists were reportedly ordered to stay away from the demonstrators.

The difficulties and harassment experienced by journalists is leading to further self-censorship in Rangoon's local newspapers. There is virtually no coverage of the protests inside the country, save for the official propaganda placed in state-owned and controlled newspapers such as the "New Light of Myanmar".

More than 150 people have been arrested in Burma within a week following the junta's crackdown on fuel price protests.

Meanwhile, SEAPA sources inside Rangoon are reporting a distinct drop in Internet and phone access in the country. The government, through the state-owned Myanmar Infotech Corp. Ltd., holds a monopoly over Internet providers in the country. SEAPA contacts say whole pockets of Rangoon are suffering from intermittent and rolling interruptions in their access to both the Internet and phone services.

Web-based email and telephone services such as G-mail and G-Talk - already subject to bans in recent years but until mid-August still reliably accessible via proxy servers (and apparently tolerated by Burmese officials) - have seen more disruptions and become less reliable, individuals told SEAPA.

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