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Burma 18 May 2006

Visiting UN official asked to intercede on behalf of newly banned filmmaker and detained journalists

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association today condemned the censorship of the work of filmmaker, actor and journalist Thura “Zar Ga Nar” that was ordered by the head of the information ministry’s cinema department, Thein Htun Aung, on 14 May after Thura participated in a programme on the BBC’s Burmese-language service.

Thura has also been banned from any form of artistic activity in the future.

“The military junta uses every possible means to restrict freedom of expression,” the two organisations said. “It does not stop at press censorship, and wields very strict control on all artistic expression. We call on the authorities to immediately lift the ban on Thura and to put an end to the censorship of his work.”

The two organisations added: “We also hope that the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, who is currently visiting Burma, will use the opportunity to intercede on behalf of Thura and all the journalists imprisoned in the country.”

Thura took part in BBC programme on 15 April about the water festival being held in Burma. The authorities accused him of criticising the government although Thura insists he made no comments of political nature.

The authorities have also accused Thura or working on an advertisement that could harm Burma’s relations with China because it shows a map of Asia in which Taiwan appears as an independent state, and the Burmese regime supports the “One China” policy.

Reached by Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association, Thura said: “The ban on working as an actor and director is bad enough, but the ban on writing is much worse.” He added that he was determined to find out the real reasons for the ban and had asked the authorities for an explanation.

Thura writes articles often critical of the government for the magazines Padauk Pwint Thit, Yeti and Popular Journal. He has been arrested several times in the past for his satires about the countries economic and social problems.

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