BURMA: Don’t axe BBC Burmese, regional rights group urges

(Hong Kong, September 22, 2010) The BBC should not shut down or scale back Burmese-language broadcasts, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urged in a letter sent to the UK government on Wednesday.

According to recent media reports, including in items on the BBC Burmese Service itself, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office is considering cutting funds for the daily broadcasts to Burma, possibly even resulting in the service’s complete closure. 

In the letter addressed to the UK foreign secretary, William Hague, the Hong Kong-based regional rights group’s director, Wong Kai Shing, stressed the special importance of the Burmese language service and urged that proposals to cut the service not be entertained. 

“I am sure you are aware that conditions for the media in Burma are among the worst in Asia,” he wrote. 

“In this setting, international broadcasts perform a vital role in bringing news to a populace that would not otherwise have it,” Wong said in the letter, which the group is also sending to the BBC director in London and submitting at the British consulate in Hong Kong. 

“The value of the Burmese Service… should not be underestimated,” he added. 

Underscoring the distinctive role of the BBC Burmese broadcasts, which are now in their 70th year, Wong pointed out that although government propaganda denigrates foreign-based radio stations, government officials in fact also rely upon the broadcasts for accurate information. 

Last week, the AHRC issued a public appeal calling for concerned persons to contact the foreign office and BBC directly or also where possible to go in person to their local diplomatic mission to urge that the Burmese Service be maintained. 

In the appeal the group also called on web activists to campaign using social media and networking sites for the maintenance of the service. 

The appeal can be read and signed here: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2010/3549/

It is also available in Burmese here: http://ahrcburmese.blogspot.com/2010/09/ahrc_15.html

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-019-2010
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Freedom of expression,