Friday, 15 November 2019

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Media outlets expect drop in junta propaganda

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese publications from next week will not be required to print military junta propaganda, according to editors and the state censor yesterday.

The regime was apparently responding to growing criticisms against tighter censorship rules on news and articles related to political parties in the run-up to this year’s elections, the first to be held in the country in 20 years.

But the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, the state censorship board, also warned local media with the proviso that it was mandatory to print such materials when occasional “instructions” were given.

“Policy articles appear daily in newspapers. They [the censors] chose one that appeared last week and ordered us to reprint it, but there are no such articles propagating government policy in journals published this week,” an editor of a weekly journal said.

When contacted by Mizzima, a board official in Bahan Township, Rangoon, said, “They [publishers] don’t need to reprint them [junta-sponsored articles] weekly but they do have to print them again when higher authorities instruct them to do so.”

In Burmese media circles these pro-junta articles that make malicious attacks on opposition groups and parties are known as “policy articles”. They are written by pro-junta writers under various pseudonyms and are sent to private media outlets by the Information Ministry for reprint in their publications.

The state censor frequently takes action against outlets that fail to abide by its orders and some are issued with warnings.

In the past, the board’s four censorship teams comprising three members each have scrutinised draft copies of news and articles presented to them by local media.  The system changed recently to use of a single censor team of 12 members.

Censorship had tightened even further since naval officer Lieutenant Colonel Myo Myint Maung was appointed as the board’s deputy director, to relieve current director Major Tint Swe, local journalists said.

The first issue of the weekly journal Pyithu Khit (People’s Age), published and distributed yesterday, experienced extensive cuts by the board’s team.

Pyithu Khit suffered a lot of censorship. I bought a copy and not only the interview with me but none of the other interviews with politicians appeared in it”, Nay Myo Wei, leader of the Diversity and Peace Party, which plans to contest in the upcoming election, said yesterday. “We see media freedom as the highest value in society. This is our determination.”


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