2 December 2004
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Laotian government prevented TIME Magazine’s Asia correspondent from entering the country to cover the recently-concluded 10th summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Sources in Vientiane told SEAPA that the Laos foreign ministry rejected TIME correspondent Andrew Perrin’s visa application on grounds that it was submitted late. But SEAPA’s sources stressed that a number of foreign journalists who submitted applications after Perrin’s were allowed into the country to cover the Asean summit.
The barring of Perrin is believed to be tied to his coverage of Hmong ethnic communities in the hills of Northern Laos. Last September, Perrin brought to international attention the sad and brutal plight of five young Hmong, killed in Vientiane’s most recent crackdown on rebels in the area.
Laos angrily denied the report.
SEAPA executive director expressed dismay at the blacklisting of Perrin.
“The whole world had thought that Vientiane’s hosting of the Asean Summit would give it an opportunity to somewhat open up to the world and at least face the press with confidence and transparency,” SEAPA executive director Roby Alampay said. “So much for that. Laos remains one of the countries most allergic to a free press, one of the least hospitable places for independent journalists.”
Apart from barring Perrin, SEAPA noted that Radio Vientiane’s live broadcast of the summit’s final press conference on 30 November was abruptly taken off the air after Prime Minister Bouneyang Vorachit, who chaired the press conference, was asked by journalists to confirm the release of two political prisoners.