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Chinese opinion splits on Burma abolishing prior censorship

Burma’s removal of prior censorship has received positive and negative reviews in Chinese media, with The People’s Daily running a mild editorial and the state-backed Global Times taking a harder line.

A copy of the People's Daily, the official publication of the Communist Party.Social media, where worldwide news spreads rapidly, has seriously challenged China’s policy of strict media control of information, and Burma’s removal of prior censorship drew many positive comments on the Internet.

Burma announced on Monday that news and religious publications would longer be required to submit stories for review to state censors before publication, ending one part of its decades-old grip on information. Publications must still submit their stories for review after publication, and can be suspended for infractions by the censorship board, which is still in operation.

The People’s Daily, a Communist Party paper, ran a fairly neutral account of the change, even quoting a Burmese journalist saying, “This is a great day for all Myanmar [Burmese] journalists,” according to a report on the Voice of America website.

The Global Times’ editorial was more negative, saying China should not follow what it called the "uncertain" Burma reforms, and “letting backwater [backwards] countries such as Myanmar and Vietnam become our idols.”

The People’s Daily editorial said: “China’s reform process has been baptized and tested thousands of times, while Myanmar’s reform is just about to bud. We would be naïve and childish if we doubt ourselves because we, a well-grown tree, look different from a flower bud.”

Many online commentators wondered whether China, with its tight media controls, would follow suit. “It seems that only North Korea and us are left now,” said a post on Weibo, a popular website.

On Monday, Mizzima reported that the long-promised censorship reform would apply to all media with the exception of films. Censorship was introduced in Burma in 1964.

Currently, there is also a bill in Parliament designed to update the country’s media laws.

Pre-publication censorship – applied in the past to everything from newspapers to song lyrics, fiction, poems and even fairy tales – was one of the repressive methods of control used by the military junta, which handed over power to an elected Parliament last year.

Currently, domestic and international reporters are not allowed to travel and report freely in the country’s ethnic regions. How the removal of prior censorship will affect that restriction is unclear.

Media reforms had already been eased for all but news and religious publications.

An estimated 30,000 Internet sites will reportedly get some benefit of the removal of censorship, observers said, although there is still an Electronics Act in force, which has been used to jail bloggers and others. 

Local journalists greeted the announcement with jubilation and to some degree a sense of disbelief after decades of harsh censorship, which until last year prohibited publishing any stories about Aung San Suu Kyi or her photograph.

Tint Swe, the deputy director of Information and Public Relations Department (PRSD), told Mizzima that 86 newspapers and 55 magazines would be affected by the ruling, and calendars, postcards, greeting cards and other printed material would not need to pass through prior censorship.

Meanwhile, many Burmese writers and journalists have urged authorities to completely dissolve the PSRD.

For decades, Burma has been regularly listed at the bottom of the world’s most censored countries.
Last Updated ( Friday, 24 August 2012 15:32 )  

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