Private Daily Newspapers to Return After 45-Year Ban

By Nyein Nyein, Reform 28 December 2012

After being banned for more than four decades, private daily newspapers can begin publishing again in Burma on April 1, the second anniversary of the new quasi-civilian government, the Ministry of Information announced on Friday.

Burmese nationals or organizations can apply for licenses to publish daily newspapers starting on Feb. 1, the ministry said in a statement, adding that they could also write in ethnic languages and foreign languages.

The ministry’s announcement is another step toward press freedom in a country that has banned private daily newspapers for 45 years, since the private Ludu (“The People”) newspaper was forced to close in 1967 under Burmese dictator Gen Ne Win.

The move follows the government’s decision to end direct media censorship in August, allowing journalists to publish their work without submitting it first to state censors.

Media organizations in Burma have been preparing to enter the daily newspaper market for months, recruiting and training new journalists after Information Minister Aung Kyi, who took his post in September, said dailies would be allowed to re-enter the market.

“We have long awaited this news,” Ko Ko, editor of Yangon Media Group, told The Irrawaddy on Friday following the ministry’s statement.

However, media sources said it could be difficult to come up with enough capital to enter the daily newspaper market at first.

Ko Ko said established media players with two or more journals were most expected to take advantage of the opportunity.

“I will keep one of my two journals, and I’ll turn the other one into a daily paper,” Ko Ko said.

Meanwhile, the newly formed press council is moving closer to completing its draft of a media law to replace Burma’s existing press code.

The law may be completed as early as next month, according to Ko Ko, who is part of the 29-member Interim Press Council, which formed in September.

The government also recently announced that state-run newspapers would be transformed into “public service media” in the near future, with a possible change in content but continuing favorable coverage of government policy.