Journal Suspended for Publishing Photo that Sparked Arakan Riots

The Snapshot journal has been ordered to suspend its operations for publishing a photo of a woman raped and murdered in Arakan State.

Burma’s censorship board ordered the suspension of a leading weekly news journal on Monday for publishing a photo of a woman who was raped and murdered in Arakan State last month, igniting a wave of violence that continues in the remote western region of Burma.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), as Burma’s censorship board is known, imposed the indefinite suspension on the Snapshot journal following a warning it issued to all publications to avoid coverage that could add to tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in the state.

“We don’t know how long [the suspension] will remain in place,” the journal’s editor, Myat Khine, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. He added that he didn’t think there would be any problem with publishing the photo, which his journal downloaded from the Internet, because it was already so widely circulated.

The journal is the first to be censured since the PSRD warned last week against printing inflammatory coverage of the violence in Arakan State.

On Sunday, Rangoon Division Chief Minister Myint Swe repeated the warning to journalists, telling them that transgressors will be charged under Section 5 (j) of the Emergency Provisions Act and Section 505 (b) of the Burmese Penal Code, which carry sentences of up to nine years imprisonment.

Burma has eased its draconian controls over the media since last year, when a nominally civilian government took office, and the administration of President Thein Sein has said that it will further relax its restrictions on the press. Parliament is expected to introduce a new law of media in the near future.

However, Myat Khine disputed the government’s claims that it is moving toward greater openness. “It is very clear that nothing has changed and that we are not getting any closer to democracy,” he said.

Snapshot is the only journal that has published the photo of the ethnic Arakanese woman who was raped and murdered on May 28, allegedly by three Muslim men. However, the grisly photo of the woman’s body has appeared on a number of websites.

The tensions in Arakan State came to a head on June 3, when 10 Muslims were dragged from a bus and murdered by an angry mob. This was followed by a series of reprisal attacks over the past weekend that left at least seven people dead and 17 wounded.

With anger over the issue growing on both sides, there has been a barrage of verbal attacks and accusations in the comments sections of Burmese news websites. This in turn has attracted the attention of the international media.

Eleven Media Group, one of Burma’s leading news providers, on Tuesday issued a statement critical of Thomas Fuller, a correspondent for The New York Times, after he reported on some of the remarks that have been appearing on its website.

“We strongly object to the correspondent Thomas Fuller for a paragraph he has written as it may cause misconceptions about the group among its international readers and the public,” the statement said.


4 Responses to Journal Suspended for Publishing Photo that Sparked Arakan Riots

  1. Censorship Board? No need. In a democratic society, let the people decide what to read or what not to read. We do not need Censorship Board. Let everyone say or write what he or she wants.

  2. Not agree with Mualcin at all. There got to be some form of censorship. Otherwise, it is very easy to incite violence.

    So far, govt approach is not bad at all.

  3. Very easy to potray the wrong ideas with the media.
    yes we need the censorship board.
    the people can be easily misled by the media.
    freedom of speech doesn’t mean there should be no censorship.
    It only means that we are free to think and say the truth.
    It doesn’t give the media the right to add fuel to fire.

  4. The more you stop any news story from publishing or the more you clamp censorship on the press, the more misunderstanding and rumor spread and the more serious a bad situation like riot will take shape. it is the the press that is essentially responsible for a riot, rather it is the silence and gagging the press that is the mostly responsible for a situation to go our of control. In yesterday’s Kaler Kanha, a popular Bengali daily from Dhaka, it is alleged that a former Pakistani UNHCR official was seen for sometime in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar before the Arakan riots took place. The paper alleged a shadowy role of the person in discussion, and the government agents’ interest in his ‘tourist’ visit to the area. There is a rumor ripe in Cox’s Bazaar about an alleged distribution US dollar 2 million among the rohingya perpetrators. Well, Bangladesh never stopped pulishing all these stories in their press. Why should Burma?

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