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Foreign journalists to cover Armed Forces Day

(Mizzima/IFEX) - 26 March 2009 - Along with local journalists, some foreign journalists have been allowed to attend Burma's Armed Forces Day celebration that will be held in Nay Pyi Taw on March 27, according to journalists and editors in Rangoon.

An editor of a local newspaper said, "On March 23, Maj Tint Swe, Director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board, invited authorized domestic journalists to his office and told them to attend the celebration."

"The meeting was held at 1:00 pm. They took our ID card numbers and details in advance. (Maj Tint Swe) told us to send one representative for each newspaper. This time foreign journalists in Burma and foreign journalists from Bangkok have been allowed to attend the celebration," he added.

However, Mizzima is unable to confirm which Bangkok-based media will attend the celebration.

Last year, the journalists had to pay 70,000 Kyats (approx. US$10,920) for travel costs, food and accommodation to the Press Scrutiny and Registration office, but this year the journalists have to pay 80,000 Kyats (approx. US$12,480). Last year, only journalists from media houses that had a close relationship with the junta were allowed.

Only white or soft yellow colour traditional Burmese jackets are allowed at the celebration. Also, Burmese journalists must wear traditional black-coloured jackets and traditional Burmese turbans at the dinner party, said another editor who attended the meeting.

Foreign journalists have not been allowed to attend Armed Forces Day since 2005.

Sixty journalists will go together by express bus to cover the ceremony. Among them are at least 30 Rangoon-based journalists. The journalists must register their still cameras and video cameras with the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board. Only registered cameras will be allowed at the celebration and journalists will be able to take photographs and videos only in non-restricted areas. Moreover, at Senior General Than Shwe's private dinner party, only members of the government-approved Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association will be allowed.

The Vice President of Thailand-based Burma Media Association, Zin Lin, told Mizzima that inviting local journalists to the ceremony didn't amount to media freedom. He said the regime was only responding to criticisms over the proposed 2010 electoral laws.

"Both local people and foreigners have been critical of the electoral laws. So, to respond, the junta is just trying to propagate its messages via the local media," he said.

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