SUNDAY, 11 MARCH 2012
Political speech has strict limits in Burma. Speaking to the public spontaneously is one thing, but speaking freely over state TV or in the press is another, as Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has learned again.
A paragraph from her official campaign speech to be broadcast over state-run Myanmar Radio and TV (MRTV) later this month was censored by authorities, Suu Kyi told Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Thursday.
She told RFA that the authorities deleted a paragraph from her prepared text to be recorded and aired later by state radio and television as part of the National League of Democracy (NLD) party broadcast ahead of the April 1 by-elections.
“I had to submit my speech ahead of time and one paragraph was censored,” Aung San Suu Kyi said in an interview. “The part about how there wasn’t rule of law and the military government had repeatedly used the law to repress the people, that is censored.”
Suu Kyi was to record the speech next week to be broadcast on March 14. She is running for a seat in Parliament.
Earlier, the director of MRTV, Thein Aung, ordered staff working in the offices and studios not to make a big deal out of her visit to record the speech, in spite of the great anticipation, curiosity and eagerness of the workers to meet the national democratic icon.
The staff was assembled in a special meeting in Naypyitaw and the director told everyone to remain at their jobs, a MRTV staff member told Mizzima.
Most MRTV staff wanted to give her a big welcome. “We have never seen her before live,” said the staff member. “We have seen her only on the Internet and the pictures in the weekly journals. First we thought we would get a chance to welcome her when she comes, but we have to follow the DG’s instructions. The camera crew is lucky: they can see her. They can see her up close, but we will not have an opportunity to see her even from a distance.”
Suu Kyi has encountered numerous obstacles from state authorities during her campaign trips across the country. On February 14, NLD officials held a press conference to discuss various incidents, including the NLD’s failure to find a large venue in Mandalay to hold a mass rally on February 4 and 5, after various authorities rejected NLD requests for venues. The NLD had to postpone the planned Mandalay campaign tour and reschedule it for early March.
It also applied to hold a mass rally in a sports area in Pyapon in Irrawaddy Region on February 17, but the Ministry of Sports refused permission. The rally was held on a sand dune on the outskirts of Pyapon, where an estimated 40,000 people heard Suu Kyi speak. The sports ministry also refused access to a football ground in Hlegu Township in Rangoon Region on February 15. After publicity, the UEC overruled the ministry decision and permission was granted to hold a rally on the sports field.
Western governments are closely watching the election for signs that it is not free, fair and transparent. High-level Burmese officials have repeatedly said that the April 1 election would be free and fair, but numerous incidents have shown that the NLD is fighting a battle just to get its message out to the public.