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Indian authorities seal Mizzima News headquarters

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The headquarters of Mizzima News, a SEAPA partner and interim member of International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), was sealed by New Delhi police and municipal officers on 16 April 2007, reports its editor-in-chief Soe Myint.

"All our computers and files are inside the rooms and we cannot take them out," said Soe Myint in an immediate e-mail to SEAPA.

Authorities did not say how long the office will remain sealed or what further action may be taken against the news organisation run by exiled Burmese journalists in the Indian capital.

No staff members were arrested in the half-hour operation, said Mizzima News managing editor Sein Win, who is based in the Chiang Mai office in Thailand.

The police and municipal officers came at about 11.30 a.m. (local time), claiming that the premises had to be shut down because Mizzima was operating on a commercial basis in a residential area.

However, Soe Myint said there was strong suspicion that the raid was related to Mizzima's coverage on Burma and his role as translator for the 34 Arakan and Karen rebels currently on trial in Kolkata, India, for allegedly supplying weapons to Indian insurgents. The rebels claim to be freedom fighters opposing the Burmese junta's iron-fist regime.

SEAPA condemns the action of the Indian authorities, which it views as a serious impediment to free expression in Burma. By sealing Mizzima News' headquarters in New Delhi, the authorities have silenced one of the few independent sources reporting on what is happening under the secretive, iron-fist regime in Burma. Mizzima News is also one of the few Burmese organisations that actively reports on violations of human rights and, in particular, free expression, in a state notorious for its abuses of these rights.

SEAPA urges the Indian authorities to immediately reopen the office of Mizzima News and desist from taking any further action against the organisation; no less is expected from the world's largest democracy that thrives on a free and vibrant press.

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