New York, June 25, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports that Burmese authorities on Sunday deported South Korean freelance journalist Lee Yu Kyong and confiscated four compact discs containing photos she had taken of damage caused by Cyclone Nargis.
Lee was met in the early morning of June 22 by five police officials at her guesthouse in Rangoon and told she must leave the country that same day because she had entered on a tourist rather than journalist visa, according to Mizzima, a New Delhi-based, Burmese exile-run news agency. Police arranged for her departure to Bangkok that same morning and barred her from meeting with South Korean embassy officials, according to the same news report, which included an interview with Lee.
“We condemn the deportation of Lee Yu Kyung and call on authorities to allow both foreign and local journalists to report on the disaster without obstruction,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program director. “CPJ is concerned that the government’s ongoing deportation of foreign journalists and harassment of local journalists is an attempt to cover up the true extent of the cyclone’s devastation and the government’s inadequate response.”
Lee is at least the fourth foreign journalist to be deported from Burma since Cyclone Nargis devastated the country on May 2 and 3. Earlier, authorities deported BBC reporter Andrew Harding upon his arrival at the Rangoon airport, and Time magazine writer Andrew Marshall after he reported from the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta region.
Ben Gurr, a photographer for The Times of London,was arrested and interrogated for several hours before being deported in mid-May after returning from the Delta region, according to The Times.
Despite widespread calls for more openness to help deal with the humanitarian crisis— including CPJ’s call to allow foreign journalists to enter the country—Burmese embassies in Thailand and other Asian countries continue to refuse to process journalist visa requests submitted by news organizations.
Because of the government restrictions, only a handful of international news organizations have managed to base reporters inside the country. Some of their reports are published without bylines to protect their identities.