Burmese Govt Abolishes Press Censorship

By The Irrawaddy & The Associated Presss 20 August 2012

RANGOON—The Burmese government says it is ending the long-standing practice of media censorship.

The announcement is one of the most dramatic moves yet toward allowing freedom of expression in the long-repressed nation.

Officials from the government’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD) told reporters in the main city of Rangoon on Monday that they no longer have to submit their work to state censors before publication.

All reporters employed in local print media by were previously obligated to send their stories to censors who had the final say in whether or not they could be published.

President Thein Sein’s reformist government has already dramatically eased media censorship, allowing local media outlets to print articles that would have been unthinkable during the era of absolute military rule that finally ended last year.

The decision comes amid journalists planning protests in front of Rangoon’s City Hall next week to express dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to follow through on promises to introduce meaningful media reforms.

At a meeting on Thursday, the Committee for Press Freedom discussed the Ministry of Information’s continuing controls over the media and government legal action against two journals, The Voice Weekly and Snapshot News, and decided to stage a protest.

In January, the Thein Sein administration pledged to end censorship with the drafting of a new media law. However, tight control over press coverage returned after sectarian unrest hit Arakan (Rakhine) State in late May.

The PSRD ordered the suspension of Snapshot on June 11 for publishing a photo of a woman who was raped and murdered in Arakan State, igniting a wave of violence in the remote region of western Burma.

But under new rules released on the Information Ministry’s website on Monday, journalists will no longer have to submit their work to state censors before publication as they have for close to half-a-century.

However, reporters will still have to send their stories to the PSRD after publication so government monitors can determine whether their work violated any publishing laws, journalists said. It was not immediately clear to what degree that might result in self-censorship.