Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association urgently demanded that that the government abolish its censorship bureau after a magazine was suspended for two months over an advertisement for St Valentine’s Day, which is banned in Burma.
The two press freedom organisations condemned the suspension of Han Thit for such a trivial reason. It also highlighted a two-week ban against a weekly for publishing a false report and repeated an appeal for advance censorship, imposed on all media, to be lifted.
The privately-owned monthly Han Thit (New Style) was told in mid-February that it was suspended for the months of April and May for carrying a Rangoon restaurant’s advertisement for a St Valentine’s Day celebration.
The military junta has banned this lovers’ festival which it sees as arising from negative Western influences. A journalist from Han Thit told Reporters Without Borders that the management had appealed to the censorship bureau for the sentence to be reduced to one month. The authorities are due to give their decision on 1 March.
Han Thit was previously sanctioned in September 2004 for allowing the headline of a censored article to appear in the list of contents. It was given a one-month ban in October 2003 for referring to a writer who had been blacklisted by the censorship bureau.
Three other publications sanctioned by the censorship bureau
Two monthly publications, Nwe Ni and Myanma Dana, were banned from publishing in February 2005 because their cover pages had not been passed by the censorship bureau.
The weekly, The Voice Journal, was suspended for two weeks, from 14 to 27 February, for allegedly publishing an item in its 6 February edition about the construction of a government hotel in Chin State in the west of the country which the censorship bureau said was a false report.
These sanctions come at a time when the censorship bureau’s director, Major Aye Thun, was forced to retire, on 17 February, for his links with the ousted former prime minister Khin Nyunt. Several journalists in Rangoon have reported that the bureau now comes under the direct control of officers in the War Office.