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Junta-backed mass organization trains Myanmar journalists to counter Western influence

Junta-backed mass organization trains Myanmar journalists to counter Western influence

Myanmar's ruling junta, hoping to counter the influence of foreign media, is sponsoring lessons in basic journalism through a social organization it controls, a state-run newspaper reported Tuesday.
"The basic journalism course will turn out good reporters, skilled journalists, editors, photo journalists and TV cameramen," Aung Min, a top official with the Union Solidarity and Development Association was quoted saying by the New Light of Myanmar newspaper. "They would also help counter the media attacks of some foreign news agencies."
Foreign news services often carry reports containing criticism of the ruling junta, which is shunned by many Western nations for its poor human rights record and failure to turn over power to a democratically elected government.
"In the globalization process, some big nations with superiority in IT development are interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign nations through the media," Aung Min, who is also minister of railways, was quoted as telling trainees during the opening of the course.
Earlier this year, the government launched a bitter attack on the U.S. Embassy's cultural center in Yangon for offering journalism courses, charging that the classes were nothing but "a sugarcoated bitter medicine" aimed at manipulating and influencing young Myanmar journalists.
The Union Solidarity and Development Association was formed in 1993 with the junta's chairman, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, as its patron, and claims 23 million members out of the country's 55 million population.
Aung Min said the association's journalism course had the aim of applying news and information effectively in propaganda work for the group, which was founded to support the junta and its programs.
Altogether 53 USDA members from various regions are attending the ten-week course. Besides journalism training, they will be taught about leadership and national and international developments, the New Light of Myanmar said.
Pro-democracy activists allege that the USDA is used by the military to harass and intimidate political opponents, including the National League for Democracy party of detained Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.