YANGON—On this day in 1964, the Revolutionary Council led by military dictator General Ne Win nationalized The Mirror Daily, the most successful private newspaper of the time, marking the beginning of an era of restrictions on press freedom in Myanmar.
During its seven years as an independent daily, The Mirror was a frequent critic of the government, drawing the ire of then Prime Minister U Nu, as well as the information minister and parliamentary speaker. In 1959, Gen. Ne Win’s caretaker government had detained the publisher and editor and suspended the newspaper for 11 months.
Two years after the 1962 coup that brought it to power, Gen. Ne Win’s government arrested the publisher of The Mirror once again, but this time it also nationalized the newspaper.
Other reputable private newspapers including Botatung, The Guardian, Myanma Alinn and Hathawaddy were also nationalized later that September.
Myanmar’s newspaper industry boasted more than 30 dailies published in Burmese, English, Chinese and Hindi before the revolutionary council came to power in 1962. Less than five years later, the number had declined to fewer than five.
Nationalization led to a collapse of freedom of the press, and nearly 50 years of draconian government censorship of publications and a state monopoly on broadcasting. Private dailies were allowed again in 2012, but many have struggled to survive.