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Burma 2 July 2008

Poem prompts purge of Rangoon-based magazine

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association condemn a government purge of the staff of the privately-owned, Rangoon-based monthly Cherry over a poem it published last month.

Its editor, Htay Aung, was told to resign after being summoned for questioning on 24 June by the Censorship Board, an information ministry offshoot. His replacement and any other new staff appointments will have to be approved by the board.

The offending poem, which was originally approved by the Censorship Board, is about the town of Depayin. At one point it laments the fact that Depayin has produced thugs but it does not directly mention an attack by military government supporters on an opposition National League for Democracy motorcade in Depayin in May 2003 in which dozens of NLD activists were killed.

The poem’s author, Kyi Maung Than, has gone into hiding for fear of being arrested by the military government. His poems and articles were banned for several years after he took a pro-democracy position. Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association are concerned at the possibility that he could be found and detained.

Another poet, Saw Wai, was arrested on 22 January for writing a St. Valentine’s Day poem containing a coded criticism of the head of the military junta, Senior Gen. Than Shwe. He is still being held in Insein prison.

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