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Burma 26 August 2005

Weekly censored under new press laws

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the censorship imposed by Maj. Tint Swe of the information ministry’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) on 16 August on the bilingual weekly, the Myanmar Times, preventing its Burmese-language edition from carrying an article about the new laws governing media licences.

"The press is still as gagged as ever, although it was supposed to have more independence under the new laws promulgated by the information ministry on 1 August," the press freedom organisation said. "How on earth can the Burmese authorities claim to be promoting the autonomy of the news media when simply writing an article about the new laws results in censorship?"

The offending article was allowed to appear in the weekly’s English-language edition, which is mainly read abroad. Published in Burmese and English, the Myanmar Times is the only bilingual weekly permitted in Burma.

Despite the increased independence which the media were supposed to enjoy under the junta’s new measures, Maj. Tint Swe said any negative comments about China, India or the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) would be banned. Criticism of Burmese government projects would be tolerated as long as it was "constructive," he said, adding that the government would be more lenient towards the press if it supported its policies.

To obtain permission to publish, a newspaper’s executives must henceforth notify the authorities of the identity, past history and political views of all members of its staff. The authorities can also order a newspaper to publish any article they care to provide, and the newspaper cannot refuse.

The Burmese press community does not believe the new measures will result in any progress for press freedom and that, on the contrary, will just make things worse.

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