The Irrawaddy’s Response to New Ministry of Information Naming Requirements

By The Irrawaddy 16 December 2014

RANGOON — TheMinistry of Information has indicated that it will not accept our publications’ use of the English spelling “The Irrawaddy,” a trademarked and registered company in Burma, as we apply to renew our publishing licenses this month.

An MoI statement, published in state-run dailies in Burmese and English on Tuesday, said use of The Irrawaddy in the application for a license for our print publications was in contravention of the Adaptation of Expression Law.

The MoI will, however, still allow use of our present spelling, “[The] Irrawaddy, for its trademark and logo in its publications.”

In light of this, we will continue to use “The Irrawaddy” in branding our publications—the Burmese-language The Irrawaddy Weekly Journal and the English-language news magazine The Irrawaddy.

In the application for license extensions of both publications, we will spell the name in Burmese (ဧရာ၀တီ) as requested.

The Irrawaddy sees the MoI’s order as an inappropriate interference in the operations of our media enterprise, which as a private company should not be subject to state control in this way. Established as an independent news organization in Thailand in 1993, The Irrawaddy believes in freedom of expression, including the freedom to choose our own name.

This is the second time the publication has faced pressure from the ministry over the issue.

In January of this year, the ministry’s Copyrights and Registration Department asked The Irrawaddy to change the name of its Burmese-language journal from “Irrawaddy” to “Ayeyarwaddy,” as the former was “the spelling used in the British colonial days.” After we responded that The Irrawaddy is a trademark as well as a brand, the department indicated that it would allow use of the name.

The Irrawaddy has been operating inside Burma since 2012, at which time the MoI accepted the use of “The Irrawaddy” in initial publishing registration forms without complaints.

In 1989, Burma’s former military regime, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, put forward the Adaptation of Expression Law to change some English names used inside the country to conform with what the ruling junta deemed to be their more accurate Burmese pronunciations. Passed undemocratically, the controversial law changed “Burma” to “Myanmar,” “Rangoon” became “Yangon” and “Irrawaddy,” the name of the country’s largest river, became “Ayeyarwaddy.”

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Aung Zaw, founder and editor-in-chief

+66 (0)8 1882 1309


Kyaw Zwa Moe, English edition editor

+95 (0)9 4500 67631


Yeni, Burmese Weekly Journal editor

+95 (0)9 5083 707


Win Thu, senior manager

+95 (0)9 4500 61945