Burma’s censor plays tricks on mediaBy Zin Linn Mar 28, 2011 7:52PM UTC
After freshly selected president Thein Sein and his 30-member cabinet were sworn in, a few restrictions appear to have eased in the printing and publishing industries.
Although publications such as political, economic, social and literary journals and magazines will not be permitted to publish without undergoing the censorship of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD); sport, entertainment, arts, health, children’s literature, general knowledge and technology publications will be allowed to publish without vetting.
There are more than 350 journals and magazines publishing in Burma. The risky periodicals on politics and economics are the smallest number in military ruled Burma.
According the new instruction dated March 25 from Information Ministry, over half of Burma’s journals and magazines – mostly sport and entertainment journals – will get an exemption to keep away from the infamous censor board or PSRD prior to publication.
Some cronies of the junta who invested in the media industry said that the press freedom will come gradually and this might be a first step. But, most media professionals think the move is a trick to give the impression of press freedom. If the regime wants to allow press freedom honestly, it should let all periodicals and publications publish without censorship.
Before 1962 military rule, the then Prime Minister U Nu’s government had no literary censor board office similar to PSRD. Journalists and reporters were even allowed to enter the PM’s office and parliament without any limitation. But, the current military rulers do not allow the media personnel entering into the parliamentary sessions.
Journalists in Burma have received draconian jail sentences for reporting information challenging to the regime. In January 2010, DVB reporter Ms. Hla Hla Win received a 20-year sentence for violating the Electronic Act, and is now in jail serving 27 years; her helper, Myint Naing, got seven years.
Burma was a vanguard of press freedom in Southeast Asia before the 1962 military coup. The country then enjoyed a free press; censorship was something unheard of. As many as three dozen newspapers, including English, Chinese and Hindi dailies, existed between 1948 and 1962.
On the contrary, Burma stands demoted from a free state to a prison state. All news media in Burma are stringently censored and tightly controlled by the military – all daily newspapers, radio and television stations are under control of the junta.
Critics don’t believe junta claims that Burma is changing to a civilian government. It appears to be merely an exterior change, not a real one.
Analysts say the move is likely aimed at countering the flow of independent media, particularly social networking, that has spread as more Burmese log on to the internet.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a press release on February 11 stating, “Burma’s new government under Prime Minister Thein Sein must put an end to the former military junta’s despicable policy of imprisoning independent journalists. The most recent case to come to light is the 13-year sentencing of Maung Maung Zeya in a trial held within Insein Prison on February 4.”
The court’s verdict remarkably came on the same day the junta-backed president Thein Sein was sworn into office.