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Burma 5 June 2003

News blackout: flagrant violation of the right of the Burmese people to be freely informed

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Burma Media Association (BMA) today call for the end of media blackout imposed by the military government after its recent brutal crackdown on National League for Democracy (NLD).

The military government announced on Saturday that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and several other leaders of the NLD were taken into "protective custody" after clashes that left four persons killed and 50 injured allegedly broke out on 30 May 2003 between NLD supporters and pro-government protesters in upper Burma. However, there is no independent news media that exists in Burma to confirm government’s claim.

According to unverified opposition reports, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her entourage were attacked by a group of 500 soldiers, police, and prisoners from Mandalay Prison, who reportedly beat them and shot at them with catapults. Soldiers also reportedly opened fire on the group, killing some members of the NLD. Opposition sources stated that 70 people were killed and up to 200 injured including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to Amnesty International, more than 100 NLD members are feared for safety or possible "disappearance". The government also shut down most of the NLD offices all over the country in an attempt to prevent details of the incident from leaking out.

"The government is responsible to clarify the conflicting reports by allowing news media to freely investigate the event. Recent blackout imposed by the military junta is flagrant violation of the right of the Burmese people to be freely informed," RSF and BMA said today.

"The authorities must set up an independent investigation into alleged crime that took place on 30 May 2003 and bring suspected criminals to justice. The government is obliged to make public the fate of the NLD members who are reportedly missing and their whereabouts," the two organizations said.

RSF and BMA stressed that the international community should impose tougher actions towards the Burmese military government until it takes immediate steps to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

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