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Junta officials censor political cartoons; reporters face restrictions at Martyrs' Day ceremony

(Mizzima/IFEX) - Government officials removed four cartoons from a fund-raising exhibit earlier in the week of 21 July 2008 for allegedly violating government policies. The exhibit, entitled "Wake-up from Storm", was for the benefit of victims of cyclone Nargis.

Five officials of the Cartoon Exhibition Supervisory Committee, under the Ministry of Information, went to Lawkanat Gallery in Pansodan St., Rangoon, and inspected the cartoons on exhibit. Afterwards, they ordered the removal of four entries from a total of 146 cartoons drawn by 64 cartoonists.

The censored entries were drawn by cartoonists Win Aung, October Aung Gyi and Aung Kaung.

"This is not an unusual phenomenon. Four or five cartoons are taken away every time there is an exhibit. It's not surprising. The officials would order us to remove paintings and cartoons [from the exhibit venue] whenever they feel these works violate government policy," one of the cartoonists said.

"I saw three to four of the cartoons that were censored. One of them depicted the cyclone as a consequence of deforestation. Cartoons with similar themes are considered excessive so government officials censored it," said cartoonist Aupikye, one of the organizers.

In a related development, the authorities imposed some restrictions on Rangoon-based reporters who went to the Martyrs' Day ceremony on 19 July even though these journalists were officially invited to the function, said an editor from a weekly journal who preferred to remain anonymous. [Martyrs' Day commemorates the 1947 assassination of several of Burma's independence leaders].

"They invited us to attend the function, but we had to tell them in advance what we would bring with us. They let us cover the event but didn't allow us to interview the guests in the ceremony," he said.

"They didn't allow persons who came without official invitations to take photographs. Uninvited photographers who still took pictures were ordered to delete electronic files of the photographs that
they had taken at the ceremony," he added.

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