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Australian publisher detained on immigration-related charges

(CPJ/IFEX) - Bangkok, February 14, 2011 - The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned that authorities have detained Ross Dunkley, editor-in-chief and chief executive officer of the Myanmar Times newspaper, on immigration-related charges in Burma.

Dunkley, an Australian citizen, was arrested on February 10 on returning to Burma from a business trip in Japan, according to a statement released by his publishing group. He is being held at Rangoon's Insein Prison until his next scheduled court appearance on February 24, according to the statement.

Dunkley's detention comes amid tense negotiations with his local business partners over future ownership and leadership of the Myanmar Times, the statement said. The weekly newspaper, which maintains its offices in downtown Rangoon, is published in both Burmese - and English - language editions.

"We call on Burmese authorities to clarify why they are holding Ross Dunkley," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "Jailing a prominent foreign editor is utterly out of step with Burma's supposed new democratic direction."

Burma held general elections for the first time in 20 years on November 7 last year. A military-affiliated party overwhelming won the polls, which were widely criticized for rules and regulations that favored military candidates.

The Myanmar Times was established in 2000 as a local-foreign joint venture known as Myanmar Consolidated Media and is the only foreign-invested media now operating in Burma.

The paper has had regular run-ins with the military's censorship board. The Burmese-language version of the publication was banned by government censors for a week after it published a story about a sharp rise in satellite license fees in 2008.

Dunkley told CPJ that same year that censors rejected around 20 percent of the articles he submitted for publication. His media group also owns and runs the English-language daily Phnom Penh Post newspaper in Cambodia.

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