News24

Myanmar eases strict censorship

2011-06-11 22:28

Yangon - Myanmar media reacted with caution on Saturday after the country announced a slight easing of repressive censorship rules for some publications, but kept its tight grip on news titles.

Sports journals, entertainment magazines, fairytales and the winning lottery numbers will not need to have prior approval from the information ministry before they are printed, publishers were told at a meeting on Wednesday.

However, officials said these titles would still be scrutinised before they go on sale.

"As you know, nothing serious is involved in sport journals except football news. We are just hoping that censorship will be eased for news journals," a Myanmar sports journal editor said on condition of anonymity.

The majority of publications - from those containing articles on news, religion and education to novels, history books, calendars and poems - will be censored as before.

Oversight committee

"If all publishers co-operate with us by really believing in us, they will get complete freedom for writing and publishing soon," Tint Swe, deputy director general of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), told Wednesday's meeting.

But the sports editor said a new media oversight committee, which will work alongside the PSRD censors, had added uncertainty for publishers.

Reporters Without Borders, which ranked Myanmar 174th out of 178 countries in its 2010 press freedom index, has said the country's pre-publication censorship of more than 150 privately-owned newspapers and magazines was "virtually unique in the world".

Sports journals rarely encounter problems with censors, although sales of The First Eleven Sports Journal were halted for two weeks over coverage of the release of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi days after November's widely criticised election.

The journal was penalised after it ran a front-page football headline in which some letters were highlighted to read: "Su Free Unite & Advance To Grab The Hope".

A new nominally-civilian parliament came to power in March this year, but New York-based Human Rights Watch said last month that press freedoms have deteriorated since the election.