Two More Chin Newspapers Shut Down

By Nobel Zaw 27 October 2014

RANGOON — Two ethnic language newspapers in Tedim Township, Chin State, have been shut down by the regional government, making them the third and fourth in a month to be shuttered by authorities citing the publications’ lack of registrations.

Editors for the Tedim Post and Zo Lengthe newspapers said they received letters from Tedim Township authorities to cease operations under the instruction of the Chin State government.

“The township authority issued a statement that the Tedim Post is not allowed to publish without a registration on Oct. 16,” Thang Van Lian, chief editor of the Tedim Post, told The Irrawaddy.

Nang Fian Buang, editor of Zo Lengthe, said his publication was also informed that it would need to halt operations on Oct. 16, with township authorities saying publishing would be permitted once the required registration is obtained.

However, Dai Dim, an assistant information officer for the Tedim Township government, said authorities had simply entered into negotiations with the publishers.

“We are negotiating with publishers to register and we haven’t ordered them to stop publication,” she told The Irrawaddy. “We don’t have the authority to do that.” Asked whether the publications would be allowed to continue publishing while they applied for registrations, Dai Dim said she did not know.

The Tedim Post, a Zomi-language weekly founded in July 2014, covers local news ranging from government activities to social issues, as well as Chin cultural topics. It runs a circulation of about 2,000 copies and is distributed in Tedim and Thunzan townships, and near the border with northeast India. Zo Lengthe, a Zomi-language bi-monthly, was founded in 2004 and covers similar subjects, as well as running a circulation of about 2,000 copies.

The publications are the latest victims of a crackdown by regional authorities on the Chin State media.

The Hakha Post was the first unregistered newspaper to earn the ire of the Chin State government, which ordered the biweekly to cease operations at the end of September. The Falam Post, a Falam-language daily, was ordered to shut down in mid-October. The registration process can be an onerous one for publishers in Chin State, who must travel from the remote and rugged western state to Rangoon in order to apply.

The Zo Lengthe editor Nang Fian Buang said that the township authority issued one statement ordering media to register at the end of September and saying that publications would be given one month to comply. Prior to that, Zo Lengthe had been publishing for nearly 10 years without a registration and without incident, he said.

“First they said in the statement that they would give one month and now they ordered operations shuttered on October 16. I want to ask: Is there only 16 days in a month?” Nang Fian Buang said, adding that he had arrived to Rangoon and was preparing to register the publication.

Thang Van Lian told The Irrawaddy that the Tedim Post had asked township authorities about how to register when it began publishing earlier this year, but did not get any information about the application process. The Tedim Post editor said the newspaper was making renewed inquiries on how to go about registering.

The Chin Media Network, a non-governmental alliance of journalists, says there are more than 20 ethnic-language publications produced in the state, four of which are officially registered with the central government.

Salai Hoang Htun Gay, a member of the Chin Media Network, said the crackdown on ethnic language publications was akin to efforts by Burma’s former military regime to suppress the instruction of ethnic Chin languages in schools.

“Because of the ethnically written newspapers, the people can improve their ethnic language skills and gradually understand to value their language,” he said, adding that the Chin Media Network would be monitoring the situation as the shuttered publications apply for registrations.

“We will watch the registration process to see that the newspapers are able to register smoothly and, after they have registered, whether there is any interference from government,” Salai Hoang Htun Gay said, adding that “if the situation is not good, we will hold a press conference or request the support of the Press Council of Burma.”