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Cablegate: Media Coverage of a/S Campbell Visit to Burma

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PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGO #0733/01 3140952
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100952Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9589
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2329
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 5782
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 9387
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 6973
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2758
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000733

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

PACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PINR EAID PREL PHUM BM
SUBJECT: Media Coverage of A/S Campbell Visit to Burma

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) State-controlled and privately-owned media largely provided
fairly dry and straightforward accounts of EAP A/S Campbell's
two-day visit to Nay Pyi Taw and Rangoon, November 3-4, though a
state newspaper did report that A/S Campbell met at the Charge's
residence in Rangoon with individuals "who are still being
scrutinized" but did not meet with leaders of a regime-linked
political party. Two privately owned weekly newspapers published
pictures of Campbell with Aung San Suu Kyi the day after their
meeting, an unusually quick turnaround. Normally censor board
approval takes much longer. A large number of media attended the
photo opportunities before and after the meeting with Aung San Suu
Kyi, the first occasion in seven years for the media to film her
openly. End summary.

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State Media Coverage
--------------------

2. (SBU) No news appeared overnight after Campbell's initial
meetings with Burmese government officials on November 3 in the
capital of Nay Pyi Taw. Instead, state run MRTV news focused
attention on Senior General Than Shwe's visit to the Cyclone
Nargis-affected Delta region. After A/S Campbell's second day of
meetings in Nay Pyi Taw and Rangoon, MRTV broadcasted images of the
meeting with Prime Minister Thein Sein and the Embassy-arranged
meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi at a Rangoon hotel. Commentary was
simply that the meetings took place. The government mouthpiece New
Light of Myanmar published pictures in its November 5 edition only
of Campbell's meeting with the Prime Minister. When PAO asked the
New Light chief editor why there was no picture of the Aung San Suu
Kyi meeting, the reply was, "There was no space." MRTV concluded
its coverage of the visit by showing a short clip of A/S Campbell's
statement at the airport prior to departure.

3. (SBU) Thus far there have been no trip-related editorials in the
New Light -- commonly the means by which the government offers its
perspective on issues. However, an otherwise dry November 6 New
Light press article citing A/S Campbell's Rangoon meetings with the
National League for Democracy and press conference included the
following swipe: "Although arrangements have been made for Mr. Kurt
Michael Campbell to meet with CEC [Central Executive Committee]
members of [the pro-regime] National Unity Party at its headquarters
and representatives of the remaining officially registered political
parties at the hotel where he put up, he did not meet them.
Instead, he separately met some persons who are still being
scrutinized at the residence of charge d'affaires of US embassy on
their own arrangement."

4. (SBU) Comment: The Embassy declined to provide the names of
Rangoon interlocutors to the GOB, though we understand authorities
later took in for questioning at least one ethnic leader who
attended lunch with Campbell. Regarding the NUP, Post made clear to
the GOB Campbell's willingness to meet with that party's leaders in
Nay Pyi Taw, but also made clear the Rangoon schedule was too
crowded. The Charge later met with NUP leaders to explain exactly
what happened.

Limited Private Media Coverage So Far
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The privately owned weekly newspapers Weekly Eleven (in a
special supplement) and the Myanmar Times, which both publish on
Thursdays, included pictures of Campbell and Aung San Suu Kyi, as
well as pictures of Campbell shaking hands with Thein Sein in their
November 5 editions. (Note: Privately owned newspapers in Burma
cannot publish dailies.) Accompanying stories reported that the
meetings took place as part of the delegation's fact finding mission
to Burma. Two that publish on Friday -- Snapshot and The Modern
Weekly - ran similar photos. We expect other private weeklies will
follow. Radio Free Asia reported that authorities allowed the
weeklies to print pictures of Campbell with Aung San Suu Kyi only if
they printed pictures of Campbell with Thein Sein simultaneously.
As no private media were invited to the meetings in Nay Pyi Taw, the
media had to get those photos from the Ministry of Information. The
next-day articles by Myanmar Times and Weekly Eleven were the result
of surprisingly quick approval by the Press Scrutiny and
Registration Board. Usually the censors take at least a couple of
days, often a week or more, to review articles and photographs.

RANGOON 00000733 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) The press had occasional chances to photograph Aung San Suu
Kyi during her trial last summer, but always under controlled
conditions dictated by prison authorities. The media welcomed the
open photo opportunity offered by the Embassy, and an enthusiastic
crowd of roughly 40 journalists waited to photograph and film "the
lady" when she arrived to meet with A/S Campbell and delegation.
They then happily waited two hours to film her departure. Several
journalists thanked Public Affairs staff for providing the first
opportunity in seven years to film Aung San Suu Kyi in an open
setting.

Dinger

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