IFJ Welcomes Access to Independent News Site in Burma

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the lifting of the ban on the Mizzima website in Burma, terming it a move in the right direction.

"For the citizens of Burma, living under a repressive military regime, the access to independent information is one step closer to gaining more democratic freedoms," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

According to information received by the IFJ, the ban on www.mizzima.com was quietly lifted by the Burmese authorities recently. Although the exact reason and the date of lifting the ban is not available, since about the third week of May, people from Burma can now directly read Mizzima News on the Internet.

Earlier, those inside Burma browsing www.mizzima.com would find the following page: "Access has been denied. You are seeing this error because the page you attempted to access contains, or is labelled as containing, material that has been deemed inappropriate."

"Inappropriateness" in the context of Burma is not pornographic content or incitement to terrorism, but the threat to the military junta posed by an independent news agency run by Burmese journalists, focusing on Burma's current situation and related issues, including the human rights violation in Burma.

Burma, which has been under successive military regimes for more than four decades, is deprived from accessing the World Wide Web. The now abolished military intelligence was known for strict monitoring of Internet access.

While exact reasons for the lifting of the ban are not known, some journalists in Rangoon have in recent days noted signs of change in the government's attitude towards media, which is otherwise under tight control of the military government. Other websites previously banned in Burma, have also started recently functioning. These websites include RSF's www.rsf.org and the website of Burmese media people in-exile, www.bma-online.net (Burma Media Association).

Sceptics in the country believe that these websites are now accessible more because of technical errors on the part of the Internet Server Controller, rather than any shift in the government policy.

Websites that continue to be banned include www.irrawaddy.org, www.khitpyaing.org, www.burmaproject.org and www.burmalibrary.org are still banned by the authorities in the country. The Bangkok Post (www.bangkokpost.com), which is critical of the Burmese military regime, is also blocked.

Meanwhile, Burmese authorities granted licenses in mid-May for publication of at least four journals, including a weekly, Yangon Post to be run by Myat Khine, editor of The Good News (Kaung Tha Din).

"A free press is the hallmark of a working democracy, and any small steps in that direction must be encouraged," said Warren.

For more information contact Christopher Warren: +61 (0) 411 757 668
The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries