By SAW YAN NAING
Burmese journalists from Rangoon-based publications have complained that they cannot report freely about pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s transfer to Insein Prison due to heavy restrictions on press freedom.
While the Burmese public is eager to hear news surrounding Suu Kyi’s arrest and the incident at her home involving an American intruder, they are forced to turn to the international press and Burmese news agencies in exile, because local media is largely silent on the issue.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, an editor working with a leading journal in Rangoon said, “Of course we want to report this news, but we cannot. The censorship board will definitely reject it.”
Another Rangoon-based editor said, “We can publish reports about this news in similar terms to those of the state-run newspapers. I’m sure that we cannot report any more than that. Otherwise, our lives will be in danger.”
A Burmese journalist in Rangoon who is working with a foreign news agency said that he is constantly confronted with difficulties when confirming details deemed “sensitive matters” by the Burmese authorities.
Sources in Rangoon said that “everyone” in the former capital—from reporters to rickshaw drivers—listens to the radio every morning and evening to find out what is happening with Suu Kyi.
Several sources indicated that the public reaction to Suu Kyi’s arrest and her subsequent detention in a guest house within the compound of Insein Prison ranges from anger toward the junta to feelings of pity for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and fears for her safety.
A resident in Rangoon said that the news about Suu Kyi and the “Inya Lake Swimmer” is the talk of the town and that many people are constantly calling each other sharing the latest rumors.
“Some are saying that the incident [with the American intruder at Suu Kyi’s house] has been fabricated by the Burmese authorities,” he said.
On Thursday, pro-junta newspapers The New Light of Myanmar and The Mirror published details about the “US citizen who secretly entered the house of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” The report included a photograph and full biography of 53-year-old psychology student John William Yettaw.
However, neither newspaper ran a report mentioning Suu Kyi’s arrest.
Some local journals, including Rangoon-based The Voice, also reported on the arrest of Yettaw, but only quoted from the “official” report in The New Light of Myanmar.
The New Light of Myanmar said that the US citizen was arrested on May 6. According to the report, the man arrived in Rangoon on May 2, swam across Inya Lake on the night of May 3 and secretly entered Suu Kyi’s house.
Several pro-junta publications and blogs have criticized the reporting by Burmese news agencies and radio stations in exile, such as BBC Burmese, Voice of America, and Radio Free Asia, saying that their coverage shows a lack of ethics and is influenced by the Western community.