COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Jubilee Campaign hits out at Burma coverage

KIRSTEN DOWNER

A shocking report detailing genocide and systematic rape of ethnic communities in Burma has been virtually ignored by the mass-media.

Wilfred Wong, spokesman for the Jubilee Campaign, which is promoting the report, said last week: "Until now the media has been quite indifferent. Their attitude to Burma is more or less confined to the problems of the pro-democracy movement."

The Burmese military has systematically used rape to terrorise ethnic groups in the Shan state since 1996, according to the report, Licence to Rape, out at the end of last month. Some cases involved women being detained and raped repeatedly for periods of up to four months. A quarter of rape victims subsequently died or were killed, said the report.

But apart from an article in The Daily Telegraph last month, the report, published by the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) and Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN), has been largely ignored by the secular press, unlike the Christian media which has championed the issue for several years, said Wong. Amnesty International reports into the issue had also been ignored.

"The Catholic Herald, Premier Radio, the New Christian Herald, the Church of England newspaper and the Baptism Times have all been quite into this issue,

he said. "They all tend to be more flexible in the issues they choose to cover than the mainstream media."

This is partly because the Jubilee Campaign enjoys good links with the Christian media, he said, but also because religious media are prepared to think "outside the box".

The Jubilee Campaign, an interdenominational Christian human rights group, plans to engineer another parliamentary debate on the issue after the summer recess.

"Just because these women are not well-connected with the outside world, does not mean they are not worth focusing on, they are being annihilated,

said Wong.

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