MRTV-4, Burma's only provider of non-state television stations, has stopped broadcasting US-based news network CNN, possibly because of its extensive coverage of US troops involved in the Haiti earthquake relief effort.
“Since Feb.1, MRTV-4 has stopped broadcasting CNN,” said a housewife in Rangoon. “In the past, MRTV-4 cut Burma-related news, but now they've cut the news network completely.”
Sources in Rangoon said the operators of MRTV-4 decided to exclude CNN after Ministry of Information officials complained that the network's coverage of international humanitarian efforts in Haiti featured too many images of US troops.
According to its Web site, MRTV-4 is a joint venture between the Ministry of Information, Forever Group Co Ltd and Family Entertainment Group. Since it was formed in 2005, MRTV-4 has carried CNN as its only international news channel.
Until it was cut completely on Feb. 1, CNN was aired with a 20-30 minute delay to allow censors to remove Burma-related reports or any other international coverage deemed sensitive by the country's ruling junta.
Since coming under heavy criticism for its response to Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, the regime has been wary of reporting on similar disasters elsewhere in the world, particularly in cases where the US military has played a major role in providing relief.
The high death toll from Cyclone Nargis, estimated at around 140,000, has often been ascribed to the junta's reluctance to allow international aid workers into the country in the critical weeks immediately after the disaster struck.
Although Haiti also faced delays in the initial stages of the relief effort, these were mostly due to severely damaged infrastructure and the virtual collapse of the government in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Haiti’s catastrophe is believed to have claimed between 100,000 and 200,000 lives.
In early May 2008, as some two million people were left homeless by Cyclone Nargis, the Burmese regime pressed ahead with plans to stage a national referendum on a Constitution it had drafted the year before, leaving victims of the disaster to fend for themselves.
With concerns mounting over the fate of survivors, the US, UK and France sent warships with relief supplies close to Burmese territorial waters.
Only after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon personally interceded at the end of May did the regime allow international non-governmental organizations to provide assistance in the cyclone-stricken Irrawaddy delta.