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.
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 But he also says further reforms are needed, including revision of an outdated 1962 media law that restricts reporting.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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid