Burma’s First Evening Private Daily on the Way

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 3 October 2013

RANGOON — Burma’s first private evening daily newspaper in five decades will be up and running this month, its managing editor says.

The Burmese-language newspaper, People Power, aims to hit the newsstands around 4 pm daily, as soon as it receives a license from the government’s press registration board, expected this week or next week.

“We have applied for a license, but we need to fulfill some requirements in the proposal,” managing editor Nyein Thu told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, saying the press registration board had given a green light to the newspaper but required some additional paperwork.

“That’s why the publishing date has been delayed—we originally planned to publish by the first week of October.”

After a decades-long ban, private dailies were allowed to publish in Burma for the first time this year. Since April, about 14 private newspapers—including one English-language daily—have become available, along with four state-run newspapers.

The 20-page, tabloid-style People Power newspaper will be the first daily in about five decades to publish in the afternoon, rather than in the morning, with news updates for after-work hours. Its logo will be a fist clenched around a star, and each issue will cost 100 kyats (about 10 cents).

“All editorial members are young journalists,” Nyein Thu said. A team of seven editors and 30 reporters will operate from the newsroom in Rangoon, targeting readers in the commercial capital initially, with plans to later expand to the country’s second-biggest city, Mandalay. “We do believe we can do this. We have been preparing to publish this paper for a year.”

The editorial team hopes to initially publish 20,000 copies daily.

The newspaper has financial support from OK Rice & General Trading, a local rice trading company, along with Rangoon-based goldsmith Golden Fish and a Rangoon-based bean and pulses exporter, Zaw Win Oo.

“The publisher—U Maung Maung Zan, an author—is very familiar with the financers, so the financers will offer us loans with very little interest,” the managing editor said. “The biggest challenge will be that all editorial members have focused on their reporting [in the past], so we may have some difficulty with newsroom management, because financers won’t be involved in this process, but we believe we can handle it.”

Despite the newfound freedom to publish daily newspapers, industry observers say the unshackling of the Burma’s press has not translated into immediate profit for publishers. In some local reports, private newspaper owners say they have lost 3 million kyats daily. Most publications depend on advertisements, but newspaper owners say daily ad rates are too low.

Bertil Lintner, an author and veteran Burma watcher, said he expected only four or five dailies would survive in the long term.

“Burma must be the only country in the world where new papers are being set up,” he told The Irrawaddy. “In the rest of the world, newspapers are a dying breed, so it’s amazing. But I don’t think all of them can survive. Advertisements will not be enough to sustain all those papers. Distribution is another problem.”

Private evening newspapers were published in Burma in the years after 1950, following independence from the British, but after a military coup in 1962 private dailies were banned.