Australian newspaper boss arrested in Myanmar

Ross Dunkley was detained after flying into Myanmar from Thailand.

Yangon: The Australian head of Myanmar`s only newspaper with foreign investment has been arrested in Yangon, an official said, following reports of a power struggle at his media group.

Ross Dunkley, who co-founded the Myanmar Times in 2000 in a nation heavily criticised for its attacks on press freedoms, was detained on Thursday after flying into the country from Thailand, a Myanmar official said.

"It has nothing to do with his company," the source added.

Exile news website the Irrawaddy has reported a major "power struggle" at Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM), the group that owns the Myanmar Times, which is published weekly in English and the country`s official language, Burmese.

Dunkley, who controls 49 percent of MCM, was reportedly trying to rebut an attempted editorial takeover by Tin Tun Oo, who owns 51 percent.

The Irrawaddy said in January that its sources suggested Tin Tun Oo "may well be successful as the military junta can interfere in the issue at any time".

Its report said an item in the state-owned Mirror newspaper referring to Tin Tun Oo as editor-in-chief of MCM had "sent shockwaves around the newsroom at the Myanmar Times" earlier that month.

Tin Tun Oo was a candidate for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) during November polls, but was not elected to the country`s new Parliament, which opened at the end of January.

Some have suggested political changes have created a glimmer of hope for a country ruled by the military for almost half a century, but critics say they are merely cosmetic alterations aimed at hiding the generals` power behind a civilian facade.

MCM has offices in the capital Naypyidaw and Mandalay, as well as in Yangon.

Dunkley divides his time between Myanmar and Cambodia, where he is a key stakeholder in The Phnom Penh Post.

Reporters Without Borders, which ranked Myanmar 174th out of 178 countries in its 2010 press freedom index, reported in September that the regime increased censorship in the run-up to the first election in 20 years.

The media rights group said in December that the country was a "censors` paradise", where journalists and bloggers are subject to arrest and intimidation and those sending information to foreign news organisations face hefty prison sentences.

After November`s controversial poll, authorities suspended nine weekly news journals that gave prominent coverage to the release of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Bureau Report

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