Two foreign reporters blacklisted
(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Burmese Minister of Foreign Affairs Win Aung, RSF protested the blacklisting of reporters Evan Williams of the Australian TV channel ABC and Tony Emerson of the American weekly "Newsweek". The two reporters were added to a list of people banned from entering Burma. RSF asked the minister to eliminate this list that has prevented various foreign journalists from covering Burmese issues for years. "While the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] and the NLD [National League for Democracy] have begun a dialogue, it is the duty of your government to let the international press work freely in Burma," said Robert Ménard, RSF secretary-general. "To prevent international public opinion from knowing the real situation in the country is a grave violation of the right to be informed," added Ménard.
According to information obtained by RSF, during the week of 9 July 2001, Burmese embassies around the world received an order from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to add Williams and Emerson to the list of banned journalists who cannot receive visas. Williams, a reporter with the weekly programme "Foreign Correspondent" of the Australian TV channel ABC, recently produced a TV report about the involvement of the Burmese junta in drug smuggling. It was broadcast on 26 June. For two years, Williams was systematically refused a visa for Burma. He produced a report in 1998 in Rangoon about the crackdown against Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the NLD. The Australian journalist told RSF that, "the Burmese junta reproached me for my reports, but they do not let me cover their point of view." Tony Emerson wrote an article about the SPDC's education policy that was published in the 9 July issue of "Newsweek".
Since 1988, dozens of foreign journalists have been blacklisted. Most of them enter the country with tourist visas in order to avoid the drastic controls imposed on reporters who are provided with press visas.