Government of Burma’s Voluntary Reform Loosens Media Restrictions From Once One of World’s Worst
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Myanmar moves towards ending media censorship
Burma’s government says it is abolishing media censorship, marking the most dramatic move yet towards allowing freedom of expression in the south-east Asian nation. Under the new rules, journalists will no longer have to submit their work to state censors before publication as they have for the past 50 years. The move was cautiously welcomed by Burmese journalists as another sign of openness following the release of the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in November 2010.
But deep concerns remain about restrictive press laws that are still in place and allow the authorities to crack down on journalists and even close publications deemed a threat to national security. Ye Naing Moe, who has worked as a journalist in Rangoon for 13 years, said the move made him feel hopeful for the future but that the battle was not yet won. “It is the beginning of a new age with new challenges and threats ahead,” he warned.
Matthew F Smith, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said: “It’s a positive development but too early to get enthusiastic. There is still an enormous amount of work to do to ensure press freedoms are protected. The same people who oversaw the jailing of journalists remain in power today.
“This is an important announcement but there will still be a lot of pressure on journalists to self-censor and there is still a risk that journalists will be targeted by the authorities for probing sensitive issues.”
Burma’s reporters had long been regarded as among the most restricted in the world. But President Thein Sein’s reformist government has significantly relaxed media controls over the last year, allowing reporters to print material that would have been unthinkable during the era of absolute military rule – such as photographs of Aung San Suu Kyi when she was under house arrest in Rangoon.
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