Light Fading at Myanmar Times
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Light Fading at Myanmar Times


By Aung Zaw MARCH, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.3


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Rangoon-based journal loses special privileges

 

With the help of Burma’s spooks, Australian Ross Dunkley launched the colorful Myanmar Times in 2000. Full of optimism and enthusiasm, he claimed that he saw a greater openness in the country and set out to push the envelope.

 

ROSS DUNKLEY: Feeling the heat

Dunkley claimed that his weekly newspaper was exercising responsible journalism in order to create a more favorable environment for all the media in Burma. A nice idea, but local reporters and editors didn’t agree. They saw Dunkley as merely the junta’s apologist, saying he was committed to promoting the cause of Gen Khin Nyunt and military intelligence rather than any grand notions of press freedom.

 

The paper had its own censorship board comprising Brig-Gen Thein Swe and other ministers who were close allies of Khin Nyunt. Without having to pass through the usual bureaucratic channels, the special censorship board would give the paper quick approval. This set The Myanmar Times head and shoulders above other Rangoon publications, granting it special dispensation to cover sensitive domestic issues such as the status of Aung San Suu Kyi and the visits of UN special investigators to the country. Such privileges were never offered to the local press.

 

But Dunkley’s mission is now in doubt. After a change of guard at the top, The Myanmar Times can no longer obtain “special privilege” status from the authorities. With the demise of military intelligence and Gen Khin Nyunt, Dunkley’s future is looking somewhat dim. Several media observers have even predicted that The Myanmar Times will be shut down. Well, that’s not happened yet, but the paper is in trouble.

 

As the spook chief is now out of the picture, special permission and privileges are no longer granted to The Myanmar Times and the paper is now required to go through the same procedures as other periodicals in Rangoon.



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