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Burma 19 July 2007

Press kept away from National Convention

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the government’s decision to obstruct foreign and Burmese press coverage of a national convention that has the job of writing a new constitution. No foreign journalist has been given a visa, while Burmese journalists were granted only very limited access to yesterday’s opening session.

“This convention is in fact an institutional sham, and the military government seems to be so ashamed of it that it has decided to keep journalists away,” the press freedom organisation said.

A BBC World Service journalist told Reporters Without Borders that the government had originally planned a six-day programme for foreign reporters, including a news conference on the national convention and a visit to the new capital. The BBC’s Bangkok bureau even got a call from the Burmese embassy asking it to come and collect its visa on 13 July.

But then, for unexplained reasons, the consular service refuse to issue it. Other foreign news media such as Agence France-Presse confirmed that their visa requests had been unsuccessful.

Burmese journalists working as correspondents for foreign news media were allowed to visit the place where the convention is taking place, Nyaung-Hna-Pin, located 30 km outside Rangoon. But they were forbidden to go with tape-recorders or mobile phones, they were not allowed to spend more than a few minutes in the convention room where the thousand delegates were gathered, and they were prevented from independently interviewing any of the participants.

About 50 journalists were allowed to attend the news conference that was held in October 2006, when the convention finished its previous work.

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