Burma gets Pvt. daily newspapers after 50 years

Publisher U Win Htay looks at the front page of his new daily, Standard Time
Publisher U Win Htay looks at the front page of his new daily, Standard Time

Private daily newspapers are being sold in Burma for the first time in almost 50 years, as a state monopoly ends, reports BBC.

Sixteen papers have so far been granted licences, although only four were ready to publish on Monday.

This is another important milestone on Burma’s journey away from authoritarian rule, the BBC’s Jonathan Head reports from the commercial capital, Rangoon.

Until recently, reporters in Burma faced some of the harshest restrictions in the world.

Private dailies in Burmese, English, Indian and Chinese, which had been commonplace in the former British colony, were forced to close under military rule in 1964.

Subsequently, journalists were frequently subjected to surveillance and phone-tapping, and were often tortured or imprisoned. Newspapers that broke the rules were shut down.

But media controls have been relaxed as part of a programme of reforms launched by the government of President Thein Sein that took office in 2011.


Last August, the government informed journalists they would no longer have to submit their work routinely to state censors before publication

It announced in December that private dailies would be allowed to publish from 1 April.

Some initial print runs will be a modest few thousand, while the papers assess demand, our correspondent reports.

“I foresee several hurdles along the way,” Khin Maung Lay, the 81-year-old editor of Golden Fresh Land, told the Associated Press.

“However, I am ready to run the paper in the spirit of freedom and professionalism taught by my peers during the good old days.”

The arrival of privately owned papers on the news stands coincides with the first anniversary of the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.

She has since become an energetic player in the assembly, although, like the government, she is finding it difficult to respond to the complex challenges now confronting her country, our correspondent says.

She has been criticised for failing to speak out over the recent wave of attacks on Muslim communities, he adds – an issue over which the newly-liberated media is also being censured after some inaccurate and inflammatory reporting.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, is to start printing its own daily newspaper later this month.

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About Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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