Burma to offer visas to foreign media


Foreign reporters will soon be able to work for up to a year in Burma on short- and long-term journalist visas after new regulations were introduced aimed at ensuring wider press freedom.

The new rules are intended to give local and foreign reporters greater access to government officials and will come into effect around mid-April, deputy minister for information and presidential spokesman U Ye Htut said.

“In the past, the government issued journalist visas to try to control the journalists’ movements,” he said.

“Now we are issuing the visa to allow the journalist access to the ministries.”

The move, which means reporters will no longer have to fly in using tourist visas or file under pseudonyms, follows the recent dismantling of some, but not all, of Burma’s draconian censorship laws.

It also follows training sessions overseen by Unesco and local media last year aimed at teaching ministers how to deal with the press, U Ye Htut said.

“In the past, many journalists would enter Myanmar [Burma] with tourist visas, so if [government officials] made the mistake of talking with journalists, they would lose their job.

“That is why they are reluctant to talk with foreign journalists.”

Ministry spokespeople

Each ministry now has its own spokesperson to deal with media inquiries, as ordered by Burmese president Thein Sein.

The regulations will require journalists to submit a CV and letter of recommendation from their media outlet for approval.

Human rights groups gave the news a cautious welcome, warning that it was still not known how visa criteria would be assessed, or whether journalists would be allowed to criticise the government. – (Guardian service)