The International Federation of
Journalists (IFJ) calls on the international community to pressure authorities
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
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
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
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.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents
over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries