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Commentary on electoral laws censored ahead of elections

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - 7 April 2010 - Media censorship is at its zenith with the general elections in Burma around the corner.

Opinions and comments by political parties on electoral laws are being censored by the Censorship Board via the deletion of words or entire paragraphs. Information that the regime does not want people to know is reportedly being cut.

"They want to show the people in the country and the international community that the people believe in their planned 2010 election and people have accepted the 2008 constitution. This is the way the junta wants the news reported. We cannot report all the opinions and comments of the political parties," a journal editor in Burma said.

"We can publish only opinions which hail the 2010 election and say it is trusted by the people and this is the one and only way to achieve democracy," he added.

On the National League for Democracy's (NLD) decision not to re-register with the Election Commission, the weekly journals could only report on the decision but could not disclose the reasons that prompted the decision. The NLD's view that the electoral laws are "unjust" was deleted.

The electoral laws announced in March state that those who wish to float political parties must sign on the acknowledgment to uphold and safeguard the 2008 constitution. This is not consistent with NLD's policies so the party decided not to contest the election.

The media inside Burma, however, can publish news of political parties registering with the Election Commission along with pictures.

Interestingly, the Censorship Board allowed reportage on some parties welcoming the junta's electoral laws and the 2008 constitution, but views to the contrary are not allowed, another domestic editor pointed out.

The electoral laws bar those convicted and serving prison sentences from being a part of the electoral process.

The United Nations and the international community have been demanding the junta release all political prisoners, including people's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, at the earliest and allow them to contest the election.

The junta allowed an article titled "Lest being on the dark side of history", written by an author under the pseudonym "A Law enforcer", which depicts political prisoners as criminals. This article appeared on page 19 of the 7 April edition of "First Eleven Sports" journal. The articles in the sports journal usually reflect the policy and opinions of the junta.

"Since political parties and parliament are the highest institutions and organs in our country, it must be filled with respected and revered persons, smart and good people, and men of integrity and dignity. If they are filled with convicted persons, degraded persons and wrongdoers, the entire boatload of fishes can be spoilt by a single rotten fish. So it is very important to take into consideration this point," the article says.

"The authorities know well the importance of 2010 election news so the Censorship Board is imposing tighter controls on domestic media than ever before," a veteran editor from a domestic weekly journal said.

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