Journalists off the Blacklist, but Still Can't Get Visas

By Reform, Saw Yan Naing 18 September 2012

Journalists who are no longer officially banned from entering Burma are still not able to get visas to enter the country, according to a veteran journalist who spent more than two decades on a government blacklist.

Bertil Lintner, a Swedish journalist who has covered Burma for decades, said that his own attempts to return to the country since being taken off the blacklist at the end of last month have so far yielded no results.

“In the beginning they replied to my emails, but the only thing they said was that the application was on the minister’s desk. Then they even stopped replying to my emails,” said Lintner.

He added that four other journalists he knows have met with a similar response, despite being taken off the blacklist.

Lintner said that he has actually applied three times since the new quasi-civilian government introduced reforms early last year: once last December, and twice in August of this year, including once after the government released a list of names of those no longer banned from entering on Aug. 30.

The Thailand-based journalist, who has written several books on Burma and other Asian countries, was first put on the blacklist in 1985.

The government first announced on Aug. 28 that it was removing more than 2,000 names from its list of 6,000 foreign and Burmese nationals regarded by the former military junta as potential threats to state stability.

Among the foreigners were journalists Denis Gray of The Associated Press, Andrew Marshall of Reuters, veteran British journalist John Pilger and former CNN anchorman Riz Khan.

Marshall, who was detained and deported in 2008 for secretly reporting on Cyclone Nargis, previously told The Irrawaddy that he was interested in finding out who the thousands of others still on the blacklist are.

Despite recent reforms under the administration of President Thein Sein, critics note that the government continues to restrict basic freedoms.

Last weekend, Min Ko Naing, a prominent former political prisoner, canceled a planned trip to the US to receive an award to show solidarity with more than a dozen fellow activists whose applications for passports had been denied.