Accurate Information Essential in Burma Cyclone Disaster

 

 

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