Saturday, July 10, 2010

Burma: Media outlets expect drop in junta propaganda

Source: The International Freedom of Expression eXchange
9 July 2010

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - Burmese publications will no longer be required to print military junta propaganda, according to statements made by editors and the state censor on 7 July 2010.

The regime is apparently responding to growing criticisms against tighter censorship rules on news and articles related to political parties in the run-up to the 2010 elections, the first to be held in the country in 20 years. But the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, the state censorship board, also warned local media with the proviso that it will be mandatory to print such materials when occasional "instructions" are given.

"Policy articles appear daily in newspapers. They (the censors) chose one that appeared last week and ordered us to reprint it, but there are no such articles propagating government policy in journals published this week," an editor of a weekly journal said.

When contacted by Mizzima, a censorship board official in Bahan Township, Rangoon, said, "They (publishers) don't need to reprint them (junta-sponsored articles) on a weekly basis, but they do have to print them again when higher authorities instruct them to do so."

In Burmese media circles these pro-junta articles that make malicious attacks on opposition groups and parties are known as "policy articles". They are written by pro-junta writers under various pseudonyms and are sent to private media outlets by the Information Ministry for reprinting in their publications.

The state censor frequently takes action against outlets that fail to abide by its orders and some are issued warnings.

In the past, the board's four censorship teams, comprising three members each, have scrutinised draft copies of articles and news items presented to them by local media. The system changed recently to the use of a single censor team of 12 members.

Censorship had tightened even further since Lt. Col. Myo Myint Maung was appointed as the board's deputy director, relieving former director Maj. Tint Swe, local journalists said.

The first issue of the weekly journal "Pyithu Khit" (People's Age), published and distributed on 7 July, experienced extensive cuts by the board's team.

"'Pyithu Khit' suffered a lot of censorship. I bought a copy and not only the interview with me but also none of the other interviews with politicians appeared in it," said Nay Myo Wei, leader of the Diversity and Peace Party, which plans to run in the upcoming election. "We see media freedom as the highest value in society. This is our determination."