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Undercover reporters face multiple risks to bring stories to the world

Correspondents living in Burma detail the dangers of undercover reporting and the layers of censorship to which approved news gathering is subjected in first-hand reports published by Mizzima News.

All publications and periodicals in Burma have to be registered with the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board under the Ministry of Information and are screened by its censorship regulations. If an article is to be published about a particular government department, it must be approved by the censorship board, and sometimes someone from the particular department will act as a second censor.

But independent journalists would only be ensuring their own imprisonment if they sent their stories to the censorship authorities. And journalists who work for exile media outlets cannot even reveal that they are journalists to interview subjects. If the person being interviewed has links to the military, he or she could have the journalist sent to jail.

Inside Burma, journalists must consider the risk to their lives as they attempt to practice their profession. Is it worth facing grave danger in order to cover a particular story? Is the story of national importance? Journalists consider the fine balance between being too daring in their coverage and knowing that if they don't take any risks, many important stories will remain in the shadows. They must "keep a low profile and work secretly" at all times.

The undercover reporter must also take photographs secretly. If a reporter is caught taking photographs of something significant, like a fire, he or she must prove that they work for an approved news group or they will be sent to jail. And there is even greater danger in attempting to photograph demonstrations, forced labour or the military.

Once the news is surreptitiously gathered, the journalist faces several more levels of risk in getting the information out of the country.

However, the resilience of Burmese journalists ensures that information is shared with the world. "Even under the regime's tight censorship and harsh control, news of major events like demonstrations against rising prices, strikes, the saffron revolution and cyclone Nargis are quickly spread to the outside world. It is the journalists that regularly expose the regime's brutal and inhumane nature," one correspondent told Mizzima.

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