Burma will publish a fresh daily newspaper under the militaryBy Zin Linn Mar 19, 2011 1:40AM UTC
The Burmese junta is going to launch a new daily newspaper on 27 March to mark the 66th anniversary of Armed Forces Day, sources from Rangoon said Friday. According to some journalists, the new Burmese-language Myawaddy Daily will become the fourth important newspaper in the country. It is certain that the paper will be not only the mouth piece of the military but also a propaganda tool for the new semi-civilian government, an observer said.
The Burmese junta has repressive censorship laws to control the press. The junta is also likely to reinforce its supremacy in order to stay in power, despite parliamentary elections last year. If the junta is sincere about democratic reforms the media must be free at the outset.
Access to information is essential to a healthy democracy. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
But in Burma, the political opposition as well as journalists and media personnel are under the strictest rules of the military rule. In most countries, journalists or media workers can do their jobs and live well. But in military-ruled Burma, it is very problematic and hazardous work.
Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai was killed while covering the 2007 Saffron Revolution, and some citizen journalists are still in prison.
Burma was at the vanguard of press freedom in Southeast Asia before the 1962 military coup. As many as three dozen newspapers including English, Chinese and Hindi dailies existed between 1948 and 1962 under a civilian government. Journalists had access even to the prime minister’s office and were free to set up relations with international press agencies.
The situation changed in 1962 when the military seized power. All newspapers were nationalized by the military regime. Then the junta established a Press Scrutiny Board to enforce strict censorship on all forms of printed matter including advertisements and obituaries.
The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division is a major oppressive tool of the incumbent regime. All news media – all daily newspapers, radio and television stations – are subject to the supervision and censorship of the junta. No printed matter can be published without the PSRD’s permission.
In such a situation, the junta’s fresh newspaper Myawaddy Daily is likely to appear on 27 March. An employee who wants to remain anonymous said that the authorities have appointed experienced editors and reporters already.
The Myawaddy Daily will be run by the military’s Directorate of Public Relations and Psychological Warfare, the employee said. Kyaymon, Myanma Ahlin and the English-language New Light of Myanmar newspapers are under the Ministry of Information. The headquarters of Myawaddy Daily will be in Naypyitaw, the new capital of the nation since 2005.
The content of the newspaper is likely to focus on the activities of the military and the military-backed new government. A so-called new parliament convened in Burma for the first time on 31 January following the 7 November elections, but it is totally dominated by freshly retired generals. Hence, it is clear that the Myawaddy Daily will become a propaganda machine of the military elite.
The new government has been accused by analysts of hiding the military’s control behind a civilian appearance. Actually, the regime has changed only its clothes not its policy or policy-makers. For that reason, people believe there may not be any change towards press freedom or freedom of expression in the country.
So, Burma’s press freedom will not proceed under a namesake civilian government actually under military control.