Australian Journalist Deported For Covering Myanmar Press Freedom Protest

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the decision by Myanmar authorities to deport an Australian journalist who was covering a press freedom rally in Magwe, Central Myanmar on May 7.

At the rally Angus Watson, 24, a video journalist for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) was taking photographs and interviewing protestors as well as being interviewed by other journalists on his personal opinions on Burmese press freedoms.

The rally was organized to demand the release of detained Burmese journalists such as the five Unity Weekly staffers who have been in detention since January 31 for their report the alleged chemical weapons were being manufactured at a facility in Pauk Township, central Burma.

According to the DVB, Watson was not a full-time employee but was offered a work experience internship at the DVB office in Chiang Mai earlier this year. After working three months in Chiang Mai, he was offered an additional month’s work experience in Burma. DVB paid for Watson’s flight and paid for and sponsored his visa.

After the rally, Watson was escorted by an immigration official to Rangoon and was taken to the immigration office in the Sanchaung Township the following morning. He was told he would be deported for violating his visa conditions despite DVB Deputy Executive Director Khin Maung Win, who was present at the processing, stating that DVB had sponsored the visa.

In a statement DVB said: “It is the company’s opinion that (Watson) should be permitted to cover events such as the Magwe rally under (his) visa.” The deportation of this journalism intern was a severe infringement on media freedom in Burma.”

The IFJ Asia-Pacific said: : “We are seeing a pattern of deliberate retractions of press freedom emerge in Myanmar. This is yet another recent incident in which Burmese authorities have impinged on the right for  journalists to freely report on crucial developments in Burma’s developing democracy.”

The IFJ has challenged recent press freedom violations including the imposition of visa restrictions for foreign journalists and  the arrest of the five Unity staffers, as well as the one year jail sentence for a Magwe journalist for “trespassing” and “disturbing a civil servant on duty”. 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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