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In Myanmar, Reporters Banned from UN Nambiar, No Comment on Press Freedom

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 --Forty eight hours after UN Headquarters in New York had refused to confirm that envoy Vijay Nambiar would be visiting Myanmar, Nambiar held a tightly controlled “press” conference as he left the country.

  But reporters who the Than Shwe military government has cracked down on, even those who have managed to become and remain accredited in the country, were barred from Nambiar's press conference. According to The Irrawaddy,

Reporters who were denied access included staff from The Myanmar Times, 7 Day, Venus, The Voice, True News, Weekly Eleven and other news journals. 'We face difficulties in collecting news because the army, police and local authorities all restrict us from doing so. Even if we have news, we have to go through the PSRD before we publish it. We are working under very tight control. The situation may become worse when the new government lead by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) takes office,' said a reporter, who asked to remain anonymous.The [military government's Press Scrutiny and Registration Division] suspended nine private journals last week.”

  Just as Inner City Press previously reported Nambiar's lack of any comment on a new law signed as he arrived by Than Shwe, which criminalizes any speech by new parliamentarians that may “endanger national security, the unity of the country or violate the constitution,” Nambiar send nothing about press freedom in Myanmar. How could he? He held a press conference from which the military government barred journalists.

  In the resulting press conference, here were Nambiar's two final answers:

Q: Did you convey any message?

Nambiar: There is no specific message which I have conveyed, but I have conveyed within the context of the issues... As the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, I look forward to being able to address these concerns in a manner that brings about a commonality of perception...

  A “commonality of perception” is easier, he seems to think, if those in power are allowed to control reporters and thus the public's access to news.

Nambiar in Burma press with some reporters banned

  On November 26 in lieu of the UN's usually noon briefing, which was canceled, Inner City Press asked among other questions for Haq to “please confirm or deny that Vijay Nambiar is going to Myanmar this weekend, and unless deny, please state his program of work. Separately, please respond to the criticism 'Win Tin expressed extreme disappointment that Ban’s 2010 report to the UN General Assembly on Burma’s human rights situation failed to seriously address violations against ethnic minorities.'

  Haq replied, “I don't have a confirmation concerning Mr Nambiar. I can tell you that we are still working out a program for the Special Adviser. I have no comment on the SG's human rights report, which speaks for itself.”

  Al Jazeera, to which Nambiar granted his one and so far only interview about his role in the “white flag” killings in Sri Lanka had this to say about Nambiar: “He is a former Indian ambassador to China and is believed to have a good relationship with Beijing, a key ally of the Myanmar government.”

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's “human rights” report also did not even mention the recommendation by the UN's Special Rapporteur that Ban set up an international panel of inquiry into war crimes in Myanmar.

In a November 22 speech at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Ban bragged that

Two years ago, when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, the government was initially reluctant to open its door to international relief. It was impossible, for me, to stand by and see politics get in the way of saving lives. We pressed the government quite hard. Eventually we got a breakthrough. Aid began to flow. Many thousands of lives were saved. We did the same in Darfur.”

There are skeptics as to both statements, on Myanmar and Darfur. Watch this site.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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