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Reporters Without Borders Calls on Burma to Release Detained Journalists


A press freedom group is calling on Burma's military government to release detained journalists, including six that have been arrested since last week's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Victoria Cavaliere reports for VOA's New York Bureau that Reporters Without Borders says it fears more journalists will be arrested, beaten or killed.

Reporters Without Borders says at least 11 journalists are currently in jail in Burma because of their pro-democratic writings. Six of those were detained for covering last week's mass demonstrations led by Buddhist monks protesting 45 years of military dictatorship. Soldiers responded by shooting at unarmed demonstrators.

Burmese officials say the crackdown left 10 people dead. Dissidents put the number of fatalities at 200.

One Japanese journalist, Kenji Nagai, was shot to death while covering the rallies in Rangoon.

On Wednesday, the Burmese government released a Japanese newspaper journalist after six days in detention. Reporters Without Borders says the journalists who remain in jail are not safe.

Vincent Brossel, the head of the group's Asia Desk, says Burma's reclusive government makes it hard to monitor the situation.

"The cases of torture are very common," he said. "Now, we don't know what is the situation. We really hope that government will at least get a sort of concern for their physical integrity. We also really hope that all of these people that have been arrested after the demonstrations will be released."

Brosssel says in addition to trying to squash radio and newspaper reports, the country's government has also pulled down access to most Internet sites except those that are state-run.

"First of all we want to inform the world and the international community about such type of relation about the freedom of expression. And also we are trying to help the Burmese journalist that are inside so they can report freely and send information outside, which is not easy."

Reporters Without Borders says it fears more arrests and violent crackdowns in the coming days.

Witnesses Thursday said the military government has rounded up more activists in nighttime raids in Rangoon. State media put the number of arrests over the past week at more than 2,000 people.