The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on the international community to pressure authorities in Burma to allow a free flow of accurate information in the country in the wake of Cyclone Nargis at the weekend.
According to foreign media reports, Burma’s Foreign Minister, Nyan Win, told diplomats and United Nations offices that the death toll resulting from the cyclone, which struck western Burma on May 3, could rise to 10,000.
State-owned media reports that as many as 4000 people have been killed.
Although information from the closed country is patchy, reports suggest the cyclone has left hundreds of thousands of people without food, clean water and shelter. The disaster could incur a bigger loss of life in Burma than occurred after the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004.
The IFJ said the disaster underscored an urgent need for Burma’s military junta to loosen restrictions on information and the movement of foreign organisations, including media, in the country.
“In the event of an emergency such as this, accurate information is an essential resource for survivors and emergency services,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“It is imperative that authorities in Burma at this time permit a free flow of accurate and timely information to people directly affected by the cyclone and to organisations with the ability to provide immediate and well-targeted support for survivors.
“Without the provision of accurate information, this disaster will be made worse than it already is.”
In view of the national emergency, the IFJ is even more concerned that Burma’s junta is reported to have said it will proceed to hold a referendum on a controversial new constitution on May 10.
Freedom of expression groups from Asia and around the world, including the IFJ, had already sent a joint protest letter to Burma's military rulers, condemning its bans on campaigns to oppose the referendum and threats against media that do not show full support.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries