The Irrawaddy Burma Election 2010

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Junta Censors Complaints on Election Date

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Censors_Complaints_RANGOON — As the election approaches, Burma's military regime has imposed even tighter restrictions on domestic media and censored more election-related articles and information about political parties, according to sources.

The regime's Union Election Commission (EC) announced on Friday that multi-party general elections for the country's parliament will be held on Nov. 7. It also called on political parties to submit their candidate lists between Aug. 16 and 30.

Many opposition party leaders were reportedly unhappy with the Nov. 7 election date and expressed their displeasure to various domestic media groups, but the regime's Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) prevented the publications from printing the complaints.

“We were only allowed to report on positive views of the regime's announcement regarding the election date and candidate submissions. Negative opinions were banned,” said a news editor in Rangoon.

Meanwhile, most of the political parties have raised concerns that they could be dissolved if they do not submit their candidate lists to the EC before the end of this month.

“We are about to submit our party membership list,” said one party official. “We haven't prepared the candidate list. We are trying our best to contest the election in at least three constituencies in order to avoid being dissolved.”

According to the junta's Political Parties Registration Law, a  party must contest in at least three constituencies and meet the minimum number of party members within 90 days after its registration as a party was approved; failure could lead to its dissolution.

Several party officials told The Irrawaddy that they were in dire need of money to acquire the required number of members and to submit their party candidate list. They said that their appeals through the media for donations were censored by the PSRD.

“We were sued by the Rangoon City Development Committee when we collected donations in the markets,” said one party official. “How can political parties collect donations?”

The PSRD is also censoring articles about the preparations and campaigns of opposition political parties, sources said.

“The military regime seems to have concern that people will know more about other political parties than the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USD,” said a reporter in Rangoon.

On July 20, the PSRD issued an order that any newspaper or journal that carried criticism of the Election Law would be banned.

Maj. Tint Swe, the director of the PSRD,  maked frequent visits to Naypyidaw to receive instructions on PSRD policy, sources said.

An official with the PSRD spoke to The Irrawaddy, but asked for anonymity:“We don't know what to do when the generals are upset with an article they see in a journal. We are very vulnerable because we are pressured by our superiors and at the same time newspapers and journals are unhappy with us. We can be fired at any time and thrown into jail as well.”

Various media in Burma, including the Voice, Modern Times and Popular, are frequently banned for carrying articles that upset the generals even though they were approved by the PSRD.

Journalists inside Burma have expressed their concerns that domestic media will not be able to report information about the candidates and campaigns during the election period.

“We don't have any freedom of information now, and we won't have it in the future,” said a journalist in Rangoon. “It is obvious that there will be no media freedom during the election. There is no way that this election will be fair without media freedom.”

In May 2008, the military regime did not allow domestic media to publish any reports critical of the proposed constitution, and it prevented publications from talking to voters and gathering news at polling stations.



Nyan_win80"Once her [Aung San Suu Kyi's] sentence expires in November, and that notion is not disputed, it is our understanding that she will have served her sentence."
—Nyan Win, the foreign minister of Burma


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