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Journalist in detention in Rangoon amid clampdown on cyclone coverage

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Burmese authorities have arrested a journalist in Magway, and are holding him in Rangoon in what observers say is part of a continuing effort to stifle news and information coming out of Burma's cyclone-ravaged provinces. SEAPA Alerts partner Mizzima News says journalist Zaw Thet Htwe, the former editor-in-chief of "First Eleven Sports Journal", was arrested by the Special Branch police at his mother's residence in Magway township, central Burma, on 13 June 2008. Mizzima says Zaw Thet Htew has been transferred to Rangoon; he is being detained in an interrogation camp in the former Burmese capital.

Burmese officials have given no reason for the journalist's arrest and detention, but his colleagues and friends believe that Zaw Thet Htwe's participation in relief efforts for Cyclone Nargis victims could be part of the explanation. "He has been helping in distributing aid in the Irrawaddy delta," Mizzima says.

Zaw Thet Htwe is perhaps being seen as a conduit for the kind of disaster information and news on the cyclone-affected regions that the Burmese junta has been working hard to suppress.

Mizzima notes that in 2003, the same journalist was sentenced to life imprisonment for sending reports to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Due to pressure from the ILO, the junta released him two years later.

Separately, but perhaps related to the journalist's arrest, military authorities in cyclone-hit Kungyankone, a district just outside of Rangoon, have begun seizing video and still cameras, Mizzima says. At least 10 have been confiscated so far.

"The authorities seized four digital video cameras and at least six still cameras in Kungyankone. They are seizing the cameras even from people's homes," Mizzima quoted one source as saying.

Authorities have also reportedly been seizing video discs carrying documentaries and private footages of the devastation wrought by Cyclone Nargis.

For further information on the confiscation of cameras as well as photographs and footage of cyclone damage, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94455

For further information on Zaw Thet Htwe's ILO-related arrest, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/63581

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