Chin Newspapers Try to Turn Page on Govt Ban

By San Yamin Aung 19 December 2014

RANGOON — An ethnic-language newspaper that was shut down by the Chin State government earlier this year resumed publication last week, while another newspaper was shuttered for a second time after also attempting to restart its operations.

In late September and October, the Chin State government ordered four local unregistered newspapers to cease printing. Among them, the Hakha Post and Tedim Post say they have since received approval to continue their operations after registering, but the latter was again ordered to halt production shortly after printing its first issue back.

Production for the two other newspapers— Zo Lengthe and the Falam Post—remains suspended, their editors told The Irrawaddy, awaiting approval from the Ministry of Information’s Copyrights and Registration Department.

“We registered the newspaper early last month and we received approval for registration last week,” said Pa Pui, editor-in-chief of the Hakha Post, the first newspaper to be shuttered by the regional government on Sept. 29.

The Hakha district administrator ordered the sudden closure of the Hakha Post, distributed in Hakha and the surrounding area in the local Lai language. The newspaper, founded in 2012 and with a circulation of about 2,500 copies, was reportedly shuttered per instructions from the state’s chief minister.

“They said to stop operations until we get the registration. When we resumed operations last week, we had to start from square one since our publication has been suspended for more than two months,” Pa Pu said.

According to the Hakha Post editor, there are more than 20 local newspapers circulating in Chin State, only about four of which are officially registered.

Pa Pui said he believed the order to shut down the newspaper was given because his publication regularly reports news critical of the state government.

“The shutting down of local newspapers by the Chin State government shows that they are not encouraging ethnic literature and media, although they should be,” he added.

Thang Van Lian, chief editor of the Tedim Post, a Zomi-language weekly that was shut down on Oct. 16, told The Irrawaddy that his publication had resumed operations on Dec. 6 after receiving what he thought was registration approval. The Township Information and Public Relations Department, however, ordered the publication to once again cease its operations the very same day.

“We had just resumed publication and only published one [issue]. But now we’ve been shuttered again. I am really disappointed,” he said.

Thang Van Lian said the Tedim Post was published by the Taung Za Lat Literature publishing company, and the Township Information and Public Relations Department claimed that only the company had successfully been registered, not the name of the publication.

“They asked us to register again. It is really complicated. We registered for both publishing company and publication. We don’t understand the procedure very well,” he said.

He added that even though they had reregistered, the process will take at least one month, meaning the newspaper’s 2014 publishing days are over.

Nung Sian Tuang, editor of the Zomi-language bimonthly Zo Lengthe, said officials from the Copyrights and Registration Department had told him that if his registration application is approved, he will be required to submit each issue to the department in Rangoon within seven days of its publication, a potential challenge given Chin State’s remoteness.