Burma’s First Human Rights Magazine Sees Healthy Sales

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 23 September 2013

RANGOON — A landmark monthly magazine on human rights and democracy in Burma is showing strong sales just four months after launching, according to its director.

Available at book stores in Rangoon, Naypyidaw and Mandalay, the Burmese-language Journal of Human Rights and Democracy covers topics that just a few years ago would have not have made it to publication under the censorship of the military regime.

But it was launched in May—amid an opening up of Burma’s print media environment after a quasi-civilian government took power in 2011—by the Myanmar Knowledge Society (MKS), with backing from a Norwegian aid agency. The first four editions have covered some of the most pertinent issues in Burma today—people’s rights, democracy in transition, freedom of speech in Burma and hate speech.

“I had attempted to publish this magazine since a-year-and-a-half ago with my colleagues. The human rights issues are fundamental things all people should know, that’s why we decided to publish this magazine,” Zaw Oo, the director of the Journal of Human Rights and Democracy, told the Irrawaddy.

“We faced a lot of difficulties before we started. The Press Scrutiny and Registration Department didn’t want us to title it a ‘Human Rights’ magazine, but we are just focused on the technical or academic side of political issues.”

The magazine was allowed to hit the shelves, and costs 1,500 kyat, about US$1.50. Zaw Oo says sales have been good, rising from about 1,000 initially to 2,000 this month.

“We’re now distributing this magazine to members of Parliament for free. I can say the readership network is bigger now,” Zaw Oo said, admitting that the nature of the magazine’s content meant it could not compete in terms of circulation with mass market publications.

However, he hopes to publish in English as well as Burmese soon.

MKS, which also publishes handbooks on ethnic issues in English, has received funding from Norwegian People’s Aid, one of Norway’s two official aid agencies.

Htoo Kyaw Win, MKS Publishing assistant editor, said he hoped the publication would reach an ever wider audience.

“In the transition period, the theories on human rights are a necessary thing for the Burmese people,” he said.

“The concept of human rights is a fundamental thing for not just academics who read English. We target all the people who are interested human rights issues and democracy.”

Ye Naing Moe, a journalism trainer, said it was unbelievable that a Burmese human rights magazine existed at all.

“In past years, we couldn’t even dream about presenting human rights issues to readers,” he said.