It was a different occasion for me to attend the 11th anniversary of Burma’s Mizzima News Agency in New Delhi. The function was titled – ‘On the Road to Media Freedom in a Better Burma’.
Obviously, the Mizzima journalists are working against odds, struggling to overcome fear as they file stories of Burma to a global audience from their forced homes in exile in India, Bangladesh, Thailand and China. It’s stirring to know that this news agency was started in 1998 from a very humble beginning just with a laptop.
Imagine the efforts of three Burmese exiles in India who started the venture without even a telephone line. Today, it has matured into a source of information for people inside and outside Burma, with its head office in New Delhi ably supported by the underground units based in Burma. Nearly 1,500 miles away from the streets of Rangoon and an unlikely destination for most Burmese refugees and exiles, New Delhi may seem an odd location from which to initiate a campaign for freedom of the press and democracy against Burma’s military junta, but it was off the congested and boisterous streets of the Indian capital that Mizzima was born. Mizzima staff shared their mission statement with me – “We are committed to the struggle against censorship and we support and stand in solidarity with Burmese journalists who fight daily for this freedom.” Video
True, being a journalist, I understand what press freedom is. And I sincerely pray my fellow journalists in Burma celebrate this freedom too, sooner.
Myanmar allows Suu Kyi to meet diplomats
Myanmar’s military junta allowed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to meet Friday with three diplomats — from the United States, Britain and Australia, according to her spokesman and a government official.
“The meeting is a consequence of her letter she submitted to Senior General Than Shwe, she sent on September 25,” said Nyan Win, Suu Kyi’s lawyer and her political party’s spokesman. A government official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the meeting.
She requested the meeting with the diplomats — whose names weren’t revealed — to hear their opinions about economic sanctions against the south Asian nation, also known as Burma. Further details about the meeting were not immediately available.
The Obama administration has said that sanctions will continue, but that they have not worked as a one-tiered strategy. Even as the United States has settled on moving toward diplomacy, detained leader Suu Kyi has called for lifting the sanctions.
Suu Kyi’s detention has been a key component in the United States’ political tangle with Myanmar.
Critics of the country’s ruling junta have accused the regime of convicting Suu Kyi, 64, to keep her from participating in 2010 elections.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been confined in her house for about 14 of the past 20 years.
A Burmese court rejects an appeal by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her extended house arrest.
Update on US-Burma relations:
Burma-US meeting held in New York
A senior US diplomatic official has reportedly met with a delegation from Burma on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
Kurt Campbell, assistant US secretary of state for Asia, is thought to have met Burma’s science minister U Thaung.
Meanwhile US Senator Mitch O’Connell restated Washington’s demand that Burma must release its political prisoners and hold fair elections.
He added that sanctions against the Burmese junta must stay.
His comments came after Burma’s prime minister, General Thein Sein, demanded an end to economic sanctions in an address to the UN General Assembly.
“Sanctions are being employed as a political tool against [Burma] and we consider them unjust,” said Thein Sein, the highest-ranking Burmese official to address the General Assembly in 14 years.
“Such acts must be stopped,” he said.
The United States cannot “even consider” easing sanctions until the military-led country has freed all political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
“The United States must also insist that Burma comply with its international obligations and end any prohibited military or proliferation-related co-operation with North Korea,” he said.
Indonesia, a leading member of the Association of South East Asian Nations which includes Burma, has hailed the United States’ decision to engage with Burma.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda called on the Burmese generals to respond positively to the US offer, perhaps by cutting back the time in which Aung San Suu Kyi is detained.
Burma plans to hold its first election in two decades next year, but few observers believe the process will be free or fair.
UPDATE ON AUNG SAN SUU KYI:
Aung San Suu Kyi to appeal verdict: lawyers
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has agreed to appeal a recent court decision that put her under house detention for the next 18 months, her attorneys said Thursday.
‘We will file the appeal to the Divisional Court for Daw [Madame] Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday or Tuesday next week,’ Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi’s three lawyers, said after meeting with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to discuss her appeal.
Suu Kyi, 64, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years under detention, has also requested that authorities allow her personal doctor Tin Myo Win to be allowed to visit her regularly for check-ups as was permitted under the previous rules of her detention.
A special court set up in Yangon’s Insein Prison Aug 11 found Suu Kyi guilty of violating the terms of her house arrest and sentenced her to three years in prison.
The sentence was quickly commuted to 18 months under house detention by Myanmar’s military supremo, Senior General Than Shwe.
Suu Kyi was found guilty of allowing US national John William Yettaw to swim to her lakeside home-cum-prison on May 3, where he stayed uninvited until May 5, to warn her of an assassination attempt he had envisioned.
The bizarre escapade provided a pretext for Myanmar’s military regime to accuse Suu Kyi of violating the terms of her detention and to keep her out of the political picture for the next 18 months while it prepares for a general election next year.
Yettaw, 54, was sentenced to seven years in prison but was freed on August 16 at the request of visiting US Senator Jim Webb, chairman of the US Senate’s East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee.
Suu Kyi’s ongoing house detention meant that it was unlikely that her National League for Democracy opposition party, which won the last polls in 1990 but has been denied power for the past 19 years, would participate in next year’s election.
It also dashed hopes that prior to the polls, the regime might open a dialogue with the democracy icon and consider amending the 2008 constitution, which essentially cements the military’s control over any democratically elected government.
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962.
Thanks Rajeev for the comments. Hope our feelings get across.
We, Indian democrats, stand in solidarity with Mizzima and Burmese journalists fighting for democracy and freedom of expression. We are proud of Mizzima’s success in the last 11 years.