News / Asia

Burma Eases Censorship Rules

A girl selling weekly journals waits for customers in Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2012.
A girl selling weekly journals waits for customers in Rangoon, Burma, April 2, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Daniel Schearf
Burma has announced an end to official censorship of the press after decades of tight government controls. Journalists and advocates welcomed the latest reform, but they also noted challenges to press freedom remain.

The Ministry of Information announced Monday that local media are no longer required to first submit their stories to a censorship board before publication.

The policy change follows decades of official controls on what news was published in Burma and how stories were worded.

Ko Ko, Vice President of the Burma Journalists Association, tells VOA it is a turning point for media in the country. But he also says further reforms are needed, including revision of an outdated 1962 media law that restricts reporting.

“Removal of the censorship board is a first step," Ko Ko said. "So, second thing. So, approval of new media law. But, new media law also should be in line with the international standard and democratic system.”

Burma’s 1962 media law was drawn up by the military the same year it seized power from an elected government. The law requires publishers to submit all printed material to press scrutiny boards.

Burma has gradually eased controls on the media since a 2010 election replaced half a century of overt military government with a nominally civilian one.

Burma’s lawmakers, while still dominated by the military, are drafting a new media law and are expected to vote on it soon.

Despite hailing the moves towards greater press freedom, advocates are still cautious

“We mark this important step but still we expect more," opined Johann Bihr, a spokesman with the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. "We expect clear guidelines written in the law so that journalists exactly know what are they liable to, what is the border and where are the sanctions. So far, local media are still in such a blurred situation that self-censorship can only prevail.”

Bihr points out that weeks ago, Burmese authorities suspended two publications indefinitely before later backing down in the face of public protest.

Burma’s state media already control all daily newspapers and TV channels.

The only private media are weekly journals but they enjoy great popularity for their creativity and pushing the boundaries of censorship.

But Burma analysts point out that reporters are also attacked under the guise of protecting national security.

“I’m pretty sure, you know, even without the press censorship board, you know, I think a lot of government agencies will try to control the media as well,” said Aung Thu Nyein of the Burma think tank Vahu Development Institute.

Earlier this month Burmese authorities abruptly announced the formation of a new press council to monitor and guide the media.

It was immediately rejected by media groups who claimed they were not consulted. They said the board was not independent and was given power to punish the media.

Many of those appointed to the council were not even aware they were chosen until the announcement.

Ko Ko found himself appointed temporary secretary of the body, which he rejected.

“We are not a monitoring body, we are not an authoritative body…We are not media police,” he stressed.

Several other appointed members also rejected the press council and the government was forced to suspend its formation. For now it remains unclear if the council will be reconstituted, and if so what role it will play in monitoring Burma’s media.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: John Goslino from: Australia
August 23, 2012 11:50 AM
As someone who has recently worked in Burma to train radio broadcasters about understanding their audiences and audience research methods, I am pleased to see the censorship development, assuming it applies to all media not just print. This should help television in particular, as it has lost viewers due to State controls, hopefully the change will result in more efforts to develop current affairs programs that are demanded by the public. The decision should give more scope to political, ethnic and religious affairs journalists in particular, but also I hope spark more professional, quality media development in Burma. John Goslino, Audience Dialogue.


by: ARK from: Asia
August 21, 2012 5:50 AM
What about the massacre of Muslim Rohingyas ? When will that tragedy be highlighted by American Media ? What action will be taken by International community ? Maybe none because muslim lives have no importance in their eyes.

In Response

by: WJM from: Indonesia
August 22, 2012 11:03 AM
The so-called 'massacre' of Muslim Rohingyas is not true and thus no action is needed for this case by international community. It is only national problem and action of OIS is really exaggeration. Instead of interfering Burma's problems, only concentrate on your own ones. It is really absurd that countries infamous with terrorism, fundamentalism, nationalism, tendency of violence, no freedom of religions, human rights abuse especially on women want to instruct and take action on another country. After all, the conflict between the two ethnic groups is not limited only to Burma and many countries in the world also experience this bitter conflict. Probably the ill-intention of anyone arousing anger and promoting animosity between Burma and Muslim countries based on religion stems from the fact that Burma experiences peaceful transformation from dictatorship to democracy while most most Middle East countries only change with violence in which numerous Muslim people are victims of this governmental changes. Is it realistic to take action on Burma while letting Syria and Evil Iran alone without taking action on these governments (not people)? Really ridiculous!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid