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Six journalists currently held, three others released; authorities trying to track down "citizen journalists"

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association have condemned the continuing detention of a total of six journalists who have been arrested since the start of the pro-democracy demonstrations. They also condemned the crackdown that has followed the protests and said they feared that more journalists could be arrested.

"Now that United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has failed to get the repression stopped, it is important that the international community should continue to call for the release of the hundreds or possibly thousands of people, including six journalists, who have been arrested since mid-August," the two organisations said.

"We are appalled by the methods used by the police, who are arresting many people, especially young demonstrators, on the basis of photos taken by plain-clothes police who were in the demonstrations," Reporters Without Borders and the BMA added.

According to the information available to the two organisations, the six journalists and writers held are Maung Yan Paing, a writer living in North Okkalapa, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, a writer and radio and TV producer, Ye Lwin, a poet, writer and singer with the Mizzima Wave Band, Kyaw Zeya Tun, a reporter with "The Voice Journal", Win Ko Ko Lat, a reporter with "Weekly Eleven Journal", and photo-journalist Win Saing, who has been held since 28 August.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was arrested on 26 or 27 September. As he sustained a head injury, he is being held at the Insein Township hospital, near Rangoon. Ye Lwin was beaten at the time of his arrest on Pansodan Street. He suffers from epilepsy.

The two organisations welcome the release of Min Zaw, 56, the Burmese correspondent of the Japanese newspaper "Tokyo Shimbun" (see IFEX alerts of 4 and 1 October 2007). He was freed on 3 October after being held for six days. Reporter Nay Linn Aung of "7-Days Journal" and Kyaw Kyaw, an editor from "Seik Ku Cho Cho" ("Sweet Thoughts") Publishing House, were also released after being arrested.

A Rangoon reporter said all of his colleagues were afraid to go about with cameras or video cameras. Radio DVB reported that the government has ordered the security forces to identify the journalists and demonstrators who sent photos and video footage abroad showing the demonstrations and their violent dispersal. The information ministry, the official news agency and the security forces have reportedly been told to work together to identify the "citizen journalists."

The Burmese public is able now to use the Internet but restricted to Burmese web sites and email messages with Burmese addresses ending in .mm. At the same time, many privately-owned magazines have still not reappeared on news stands. Some are refusing to publish propaganda while others are still waiting for the military censors to approve their next issue.

Foreign journalists who have just left Burma say it is getting harder and harder to find reliable Burmese sources. "They are afraid and you no longer know who is who," said a French-speaking journalist based in Asia. "Those who took part in the demonstrations have been arrested or are in hiding."

The government press has published articles that are critical of the foreign media and accuse them of being "liars trying to destroy the nation." "The New Light of Myanmar", a government daily, has not mentioned the recent nighttime raids in which dozens of monks and civilians have been arrested.

The Japanese government is meanwhile said to be about to suspend its aid as a result of the murder of Japanese video reporter Kenji Nagai, whose body has been repatriated (see alerts of 1 October, 28 and 27 September 2007).

Reporters Without Borders and the BMA finally apologise for including information in recent releases that was not properly verified and turned out to be wrong. The security forces did not search the Traders Hotel and no German journalist was injured in Rangoon.

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