Myanmar censorship board dissolved

Myanmar censorship board dissolved

The authorities in Myanmar have announced the closure of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, representing an important step for media freedom
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The closure of the censorship board should mean more freedom for journalists in Myanmar (AFP)

Myanmar has announced the closure of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), the country’s censorship board, according to reports.

The state newspaper, New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday that the closure of the PSRD was approved at a cabinet meeting the previous day.

“The division under the Printing and Publishing Enterprise has stopped functioning since 20 August, 2012 to pave ways for freedom of press,” said the report, noting that the “Copyrights and Registration Division” under the Information Public Relations Department will replace the institution.

While the constitution of Burma guaranteed the rights of citizens to freedom of expression and opinions, the 1962 military coup resulted in a shift from a relatively free and open society, to a country in which the press was very tightly restricted.

According to a report by Burmese expert and journalist, Zin Linn: “After the 1962 military coup, press freedom had no place in Burma.  Many writers and journalists were thrown into infamous prisons under the emergency security act created by the then military junta. Over the last fifty years, Burmese writers and journalists have called the PSRD censorship office the media secret-police.”

Prior to the coup, Myanmar had no censorship office and readers could choose between some three dozen newspapers, including English and Chinese dailies.  Journalists were free to investigate stories, had access to senior politicians, and were able to establish partnerships with international news agencies.

Following the coup, the newspapers were nationalised by the junta under General Ne Win who ordered the Press Scrutiny Board to be established and the ‘Printers and Publishers Registration Law’ to be passed.  Nothing could be published without authorisation from the PSRD, meaning that photographs, cassette tapes, movies and video footage needed approval from the censors.

Recent developments

Over the past two years, the “winds of change” have been blowing in Burma and tight restrictions on members of the press have been loosened somewhat.

Reporters and experts have spoken positively about the atmosphere in the country and expressed their hopes that the government is taking serious steps to ensure that media freedom is guaranteed.

Journalists have also become more vocal, and in August last year, over 90 journalists from the Myanmar Journalists’ Association, Myanmar Journalists’ Network and Myanmar Journalists’ Union joined together to protest against the suspension of Voice Weekly and the Envoy Journal.

But according to Linn, while the dissolution of the PSRD is a step in the right direction, journalists in Myanmar will be hoping that the government will take further action to reverse restrictions embedded in certain laws which have been used to oppress members of the media in the past four decades.

 

Sources: DCMF, asiaconnection.com 

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