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Huge rise in satellite television fees jeopardises access to information

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association condemn the 167-fold increase in the price of a satellite dish licence - from 6,000 to 1 million kyats (approx. US$5 to 800) - that has just been introduced by the military government. Reuters quoted a Myanmar Post and Telecom official as saying: "We were just ordered by the higher authorities. Even I was shocked when I heard about it."

Khin Maung Win, the deputy director of Democratic Voice of Burma TV (DVB TV), an Oslo-based station run by Burmese exiles, said: "We are about to launch a new formula with updated programmes every day and now the government has targeted us with this increase in the price of licences. Who can afford 700 euros just to install a dish?"

He added: "The military government is aware of the power of the image and they are not going to allow DVB TV and the international TV channels to become the main sources of news in Burma. Even if 90 per cent of dish owners do not have licences, this decision may be the first step in a crackdown."

International TV stations, especially Al-Jazeera International and DVB TV (the only independent Burmese-run TV station), have become very popular in Burma since September 2007's protests. Some journalists estimate that Burma has at least a million satellite dishes, used mainly for watching football matches and films, although only 60,000 are officially licenced.

DVB was the winnner of the Reporters Without Borders and Fondation de France free media prize in 2007.

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