New York’s Grand Central Station is a gathering point today for people who are coming into town from a little farther away than usual: Burmese dissidents, writers, monks, and musicians are convening to protest the military junta of Senior General Than Shwe. Human Rights Watch has organized a petition and an art and photo installation in Vanderbilt Hall that includes “saffron revolution” monks coming in by train from Utica in the afternoon and closing prayers from the All Burma Monks Alliance at 6 p.m.
As HRW points out, more than 2,100 political prisoners languish in Burma’s prisons; according to CPJ’s statistics, Burma is the world’s fifth-worst jailer of journalists, with nine behind bars. In April 2009, CPJ ranked Burma as the worst place in the world to be a blogger, partly because of extreme restrictions on the Internet, but also because of the massive prison sentences meted out to bloggers: Nay Phone Latt was given 20 and a half years in 2008 on violations of the Electronic and Video acts, and Maung Thura was initially sentenced to 59 years in part for communicating with exiled dissidents and giving interviews to foreign media.
A 2006 CPJ report called Burma the world’s second-most censored country. Visiting journalists have told CPJ that editors use two different pencils to edit copy: Blue pencils for line edits, red pencils indicate that phrases or topics were forbidden by the government’s censorship board.
Read more about HRW’s Burma campaign here.