Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association have expressed dismay as the new military government shut down 14 newspapers indefinitely and three others temporarily.
The "hardliners" in the military junta also retook control of the censorship bureau, previously in the hands of associates of General Khin Nyunt, who was put under house arrest on 19 October.
The two press freedom organisations termed the step as ’unfair, sudden and brutal’ towards an entire section of the privately-owned press in Burma. It looked like an act of revenge on the part of the new Prime Minister, Soe Win towards media close to his predecessor.
"The press should not be made a victim of score-settling. We call for the immediate reopening of all these newspapers and an end to advance censorship," the two organisations said in a letter to the new prime minister.
According to information obtained by the two organisations, the suspended publications include Living Color, New Gazette, First Eleven Journal, Interview Journal, Reader’s Journal, Idea Magazine, The Voice Journal, Naing Ngan Da-Kar Journal and Kumudra. For example, the holder of the publishing licence for the magazine Living Color was the son of Khin Nyunt, Ye Naing Win. In other cases, the publishers had to obtain publication licences belonging to associates of Khin Nyunt or agents of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS).
Myanmar Times, jointly owned by an Australian publisher and the Office of Strategic Studies (OSS), was shut down for one week. "We were told that the government is in the process of restructuring the censorship office and that is the reason why Myanmar Times was closed temporarily, said one member of staff.