Burmese journalists launch movements for press freedomBy Zin Linn Aug 05, 2012 1:10AM UTC
A number of journalists wearing black T-shirts decorated with the catchphrase ‘STOP KILLING PRESS’ launched a demonstration in former capital Rangoon Saturday to go up against the suspension of two journals. It happened in the course of uncertainties since PSRD’s bureaucrats are returning strict draconian censorship laws.
On August 1, 92 journalists from Myanmar Journalists’ Association (MJA), Myanmar Journalists’ Network (MJN) and Myanmar Journalists’ Union (MJU) held a meeting at the Royal Rose Garden in Yangon and released a press statement.
The participants agreed to form a Press Freedom Committee and then issued a seven-point statement that was sent to President Thein Sein. The statement was released by the Press Freedom Committee (Ad hoc) asking for the withdrawal of the bans on the two news journals immediately. It also demands to sack the persons who oppose the reform plan while the country has been on a track of democratic change.
A group of journalists in a marching movement in Rangoon (Yangon) as a part of protest -‘STOP KILLING PRESS’.
Photo: Zin Wai (Venus News Weekly)
Additionally, the 92-journalist group wants to bring to an end any proceedings on the media and journalists who carry out their journalistic duties in line with the Code of Conduct. They also insist that laws governing freedom of expression are quashed, especially the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act.
Besides, they affirmed that if the government exposed a ‘press law’ without seeking advice from the stakeholders of the press, they will not accept any outcome on the topic. The Voice Weekly and The Envoy were suspended last week as the journals failed to put forward news stories for the pre-publication checking process. Usually, the PSRD’s temporary suspension or punishment takes two to four weeks.
The current suspension of the journals by PSRD directly impairs the livelihoods of several journalists’ families plus the distributers and hawkers. In fact, the authorities should thoroughly ponder the social consequences before they mete out such punishment.
Burma’s Censorship Board or Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD) suspended two weekly journals for an indefinite period, according to the PSRD’s press statement dated July 31. The censorship office expressed that the Voice Weekly and Envoy Journals contempt its instruction No.44 dated 7 June 2011. The said instruction states all publications need to pass the censor-board before bring out as well as require permissions for marketing.
The two journals have been temporarily banned for breaching the rules and regulations of censorship office which is the old institution of the previous junta. However, the authorities did not give details of the certain reasons for the ban. The action may be the latest contradiction between the administration and the self-motivated new generation journalists who have been seriously asking for press freedom since the new quasi-civilian government came to power.
According to the editors of the journals, their periodicals were banned as they published news stories related to Cabinet restructuring presumption. The Voice Weekly also has been facing a defamation suit over a story alleging irregularities in six government ministries budget accounts, including the Ministry of Mining.
In October 2011, Tint Swe, the director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD), told Radio Free Asia that censorship should come to an end as part of democratic reforms under the new civilian government.
“There is no press censorship office in most countries in the world including our neighbors and as it is not compatible with democratic norms, press restrictions should be abolished in the near future,” he said in an interview with RFA Burmese Service.
On 3 August, Reporters Without Borders and its partner organization and Burma Media Association released a press statement which condemn the resumption of censorship by Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), which suspended two weeklies, The Voice and The Envoy, indefinitely on 31 July for allegedly violating “2011 Order No. 44” and a PSRD ban on publishing articles that have not received its approval.
“The PSRD’s measures show we were right to have repeatedly voiced doubts in recent months,” the two organizations said. “It is clear that part of the government or at least some of its most influential members are trying to keep the media under strict control. The current period’s transitional nature cannot be used by the information ministry or the PSRD to justify these suspensions. Such drastic sanctions on the press must end once and for all.”
The two organizations added: “We urge the PSRD to rescind the suspensions imposed on The Voice and The Envoy and to end its policy of deterrence, which just has the effect of getting journalists to censor themselves.”
According to the Committee for Press Freedom (Myanmar), it has been starting a signature-campaign for the press freedom and now busy collecting signatures of the media personnel. The committee seems to take a leading part in order to achieve an honorable role of the press in accordance with the international democratic media norms.
There has been no remarkable improvement concerning media freedom since the new president has come into office. There have been the routine restrictions on media and journalists and also extra restrictions on Internet users as the information minister is the same ex-military bureaucrat from the days of the former junta.
Although optimistic politicians and journalists hoped for better free-press atmosphere under the quasi-civilian regime, the scenario remains unchanged.