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Mizzima: State of Fear: the Fourth

State of Fear : the Fourth Estate in Burma

New Delhi, May 26, 2000
Mizzima News Group

A group of writers and novelists in Burma said that military rulers have
stepped up surveillance over the writers and persecution of the
intellectuals after they secretly formed an association in Rangoon in
February this year.

In the first week of this month, Major Aye Tun, a director in the Home
Ministry summoned editors and publishers of magazines and journals and
threatened that those periodicals which publish materials that violate
the policies of the military junta would be closed and the author,
editor and the publisher would be sentenced minimum one year and maximum
seven years of prison term, the Litterateurs Association said in a
statement received in New Delhi.

Major Aye Tun is also the Chairman of Press Scrutiny Board (PSB) which
was formed in 1962 by the then military regime as official body
responsible for censorship.

According to the statement, the editors and publishers were forced to
fill up the forms in the meeting itself giving their bio-data in
details, undertaking not to print or publish articles, poems, and
cartoons critical to the military government and even pledging to
disclose the bio-data and activities of those authors wanted by the
military intelligence.

The Litterateurs Association has accused the junta of trying a "sinister
attempt" to break the fraternity of the writers in the country.

The statement further said that since after news of the formation of
their organization is leaked out, the publishing industry in the country
has been facing ever-increasing surveillance from the powerful military

It has to secure clearance not only from Press Scrutiny Board but also
from the military intelligence causing heavy expenditure, harassment and
delays. Even after obtaining clearance from the censor board, books and
magazines are subjected to cuts of entire paragraphs by the military
intelligence if they feel that they contain materials critical to the

In many cases, the printing of the book has to be repeated and clearance
again sought from the military intelligence as the cuts were so badly
made that the books cannot appear without torn pages and pasting. This
process results in delays by weeks and months, said the statement.

Moreover, it said that Burmese literature fraternity is in the worst era
in history, being struggling hard for survival "against the ruthless
aggression, strict and draconian rules laid down and the verbal or
written decrees issued by the junta from time to time".

Mizzima News has learnt that some writers, poets and novelists met in
Rangoon in February and formed the Litterateurs Association to resist
the junta's persecution of the intellectuals in the country.

Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) on Thursday issued a release
condemning the junta for depriving the Burmese people of any objective
news and violating the rights of Burmese and foreign journalists to
practice their profession freely. It said Burma is still the country,
which is keeping the most journalists in prison.

Four journalists have died in prison in the last ten years and more than
20 journalists are still imprisoned.

"No criticism of the army or the junta is tolerated. The government aims
to control journalists right down to the words they write?", said RSF.