Burma reforms press council after criticism
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Burma reforms press council after criticism

YANGON, Burma (AP) — Burma’s government on Monday replaced a press watchdog agency criticized as repressive with a new more liberal council in another boost for freedom of expression.

The action came at the initiative of new Information Minister Aung Kyi, whose predecessor was more closely identified with the hardline policies of the former military government.

The new council reduces the powers that the earlier agency, established Aug. 9, had to vet foreign publications and initiate criminal and civil complaints against journalists. Aung Kyi took office at the end of August.

There has been an easing of restrictions on freedom of expression since last year, when the elected nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein began political and economic reforms after almost five decades of repressive military rule.

The abolition in August of direct media censorship was the most substantive move so far toward freedom of the press. However, several laws still exist that pose legal threats to the media, and daily newspapers remain a state monopoly.

The new council, like the old one, is an interim body pending establishment of a permanent press council after a new media law is passed by parliament.

The defunct interim council had 20 members, while the new one has 28, including some from the old body and an increased number of journalists, and is chaired by a retired supreme court judge.