Burma is slowly adopting free media

NJ Thakuria

Guwahati: The transition of Burma (Myanmar) from a military controlled State to a partial democracy has resulted in some important decisions on the functioning of mainstream media there. The Burmese government has already ‘ended pre-publication censorship and also disbanded the censorship board known as Press Scrutiny and Registration Division’.


In addition to it, independent media persons’ organizations like Myanmar Journalist Association, Myanmar Journalist Network and Myanmar Journalist Union have been permitted to grow. Earlier the interest of journalists and other media persons was taken care of  by the government controlled Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association, alleged Burma Partnership, which has been campaigning for decades for a free Burma.

It also added that ‘despite these positive steps, there remain many challenges to the freedom of expression of journalists and publications’. One of the largest threats of repression is that the
Printers and Publishers Registration Act (1962) and other restrictive laws remain on the books, providing legal grounds for the government to repress critical voices, the campaigners added.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris based media rights body also highlighted the same optimistic point of views that  Burma had witnessed ‘rapid progress’ on ‘freedom of information’,  but there is still ‘limits of this progress and the dangers it faces’.

“For 25 years, RSF was on a blacklist that prevented it from visiting Burma. Imprisoned journalists such as Win Tin, one of the symbols of the fight for freedom of information, and Democratic Voice of Burma’s video-journalists could only be supported from a distance during this period. Finally the Burmese government has taken off the blacklist on 28 August 2012,” said the Reporters Without Borders statement.

The RSF has already called on the Burmese government to curb lawsuits against the media and to support the rapid repeal of repressive laws. It also urged the international community to condition its assistance on respect for fundamental freedoms, especially freedom of information.

Recently the Burmese Information and Communications ministry had granted permission for 16 privately owned journals to publish dailies for the first time in 50 years starting on 1 April, with an additional 10 journals granted permission at the end of April. Many exiled journalists have also returned to Burma and various foreign news agencies including Associated Press, NHK and Kyodo News have opened their offices in Rangoon, the former capital of Burma.