Journals Black Out Covers to Protest Press Restrictions

By Dennins Aung Aung 6 August 2012

RANGOON — Several leading news journals in Burma blacked out their front pages on Monday in the latest display of growing dissatisfaction with continuing restrictions on press freedom.

Quoting the chapter of Burma’s 2008 Constitution that deals with the fundamental rights of citizens, the front page of The Messenger also included the following sentence in Burmese, written in bold white letters: “Every citizen shall be at liberty to express and publish freely their convictions and opinions.”

Above this, also in Burmese but in a smaller font, was a quote by Joseph Pulitzer: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.”

“It is our message against draconian censorship,” said Thiha Aung, an editor with The Messenger, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday.

At least two other journals, The Nation and Express Time, had similar blacked-out front pages. More journals to be published this week are expected to have similar covers.

The move is the latest effort by Burmese journalists to highlight continuing suppression of press freedom following the suspension of two journals last week for failing to submit articles to the censorship board for pre-publication scrutiny.

On Saturday, around 60 young journalists wearing black t-shirts that read “Stop Killing Press” marched through Rangoon to protest the latest evidence of the government’s backsliding on promises to relax media controls.

The rally was organized by the Committee for Freedom of the Press, a group of around 100 journalists that was formed a day after the two journals—Voice Weekly and Envoy—were suspended.

On Sunday, dozens of journalists wearing the same shirt also rallied in Mandalay and collected signatures for a petition.

Meanwhile, journalists in Rangoon reported that the censorship board, known as the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, has lifted the publication ban on the two journals.

But journalists said this wouldn’t end their quest to abolish censorship completely.

“We will keep up our fight to end censorship, one step at a time,” said Tha Lun Zaung Htet, a leading member of the Committee for Freedom of the Press.