Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New government to lift censorship on some journals; not newspapers

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma's media world may get a little more free starting sometime this week. The junta’s censorship board director Tint Swe said that the new parliamentary government would relax the current press censorship policy in accordance with the new Constitution, the Flower News Journal reported.

Road side vendors sell newspapers and journals in Rangoon. Photo: Mizzima
Road side vendors sell newspapers and journals in Rangoon. Photo: Mizzima
‘The first step will be made on the day the new government takes office. But, as a result of the freedom of the press, the publications need to take responsibility', the journal quoted Tint Swe as saying.

No date has been set for the new government to take office, but lawmakers have said it could be later this week.

Tint Swe also said that publishers and journalists of most journals and magazines will not need to pass articles through the censor board prior to publication.

However, the new policy only applies to publications focusing on sport, entertainment, general knowledge, health, children’s literature, the supernatural and technology. Publications which print articles about politics, business and news will still need to pass articles through the censorship board prior to publication.

Section 354 (a) of the ‘2008’ Constitution says that if not contrary to the law enacted for Union security, prevalence of law and order, community peace and tranquility or public order and morality, every citizen can speak and publish freely.

The section also states that any citizen can develop their language, literature, culture, religion and customs without prejudice to the relations between one national race and another or among national races and to other faiths.

In accordance with the new policy, 84 of the total of 172 journals and 113 out of the total of 184 magazines would not need to work with the censor board prior to publication of articles. Fiction, fable books and comics also would not need to pass the censor board, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Department said last week.

Books and journals that have already been published will need to go via the censor board after publication. Printing houses and publishers must also be licensed by the state.

Ko Ko (RIT), the secretary of the Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association, said, ‘People don’t like to submit their transcripts to the censor board prior to publication. This will be a big change under the new government. But the new policy will not be for news and business journals. However, I think the authorities will also relax the censorship on those journals’.  

Hein Lat, an editor of Popular Journal, said that if the new policy is introduced, the publication process will be faster, but the publishers and journalists will need to follow the code of ethics established by the authorities.

In 1962, Ne Win’s government enforced the Printers and Publishers Registration Law and that law along with censorship laws enacted in the British colonial era are still in effect.

In Burma, if a journal publishes news and stories without the approval of the censor board, it can be suspended for two weeks to a month.

An editor said that the censorship board heavily censored recent news regarding the earthquake that struck northeastern Burma.

'In the earthquake stories, we cannot mention the actual death toll. We need to use the figure compiled by the state-run newspapers. And we cannot use the photos that show very serious damage. If you submitted 15 photos regarding the damage by the earthquake, only three or four will have been approved. Unofficial death tolls compiled by residents are not allowed to be published', the editor told Mizzima.

State-run newspapers have said the number of dead was 74, while an unofficial death toll compiled by rescue teams and residents reached 150.

Meanwhile, a new daily newspaper is to be published by the army, called Myawaddy, sometime during April, according to Zaw Myint Hlaing, a spokesperson for the Rangoon office of the newspaper.

He said a dummy paper has been printed as a test run and shown to authorities.

http://mizzima.com/news/inside-burma/5076-new-government-to-lift-censorship-on-some-journals-not-newspapers.html
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