Reporters Without Borders and the exiled Burma Media Association (BMA) today condemned the government’s month-long closure of two magazines, one for quoting an officially banned writer and the other for running an advert for a company in neighbouring Thailand, with whose government Burma is in dispute.
The two organisations said the move, announced on 10 October by the government’s Literary Scrutiny Board, was new proof that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) had no intention of easing its pressure on the country’s privately-owned media. They called on interior minister Lt. Gen. Tin Hlaing to cancel the ban at once and to end all preliminary censorship.
The radio station Democratic Voice of Burma said the magazine Han Thit (New Style) was banned for quoting in its October issue a poem by Maung Chaw Nwe, who died in September, mentioning another writer, Ko Lay, whose works have been outlawed in Burma since he took part in a meeting of the opposition National League for Democracy in 1997. The media is forbidden to mention Ko Lay’s name.
The other publication, Beauty Magazine, was banned for printing an advert for a Thai company. At the end of May, Reporters Without Borders and the BMA criticised the SPDC’s decision to ban all advertisements to do with Thailand in the privately-owned media. Editors were required to sign a letter promising not to run them.
The ban stemmed from a diplomatic and military crisis between the two countries that led to closing of their common borders at Mae Sai, Mae Sot and Ranong. Since they were reopened on 15 October after five months, relations have begun returning to normal. But the ban on advertising continues, financially threatening the privately-owned media, which get most of their advertising revenue from Thai firms.