Keeping the Censors Sweet
covering burma and southeast asia
Saturday, March 23, 2019


Keeping the Censors Sweet

By Clive Parker AUGUST, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.8


Bribery is a part of everyday life for Burma’s press


From the outside, the three-story building at number six is as nondescript as the other houses and businesses on Wingabar Road just outside downtown Rangoon. Inside, however, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division headquarters stands out from the majority of the capital’s Spartan offices and government departments because of its abundant furniture and electrical appliances.


“The PSRD office is lavishly decorated, even the toilet,” said one regular visitor, a journalist who requested anonymity.



A closer look at the DVD players, televisions, stereos and furniture that fill the building reveals small identification tags, each with the name of a leading Burma publication. The labels allow Burma’s censorship board to keep track of the journals that have paid up in full—each appliance and piece of furniture is a mandatory bribe.


“If a new journal is approved for publication it has to give some ‘donation’ to the office,” the journalist says.


This, however, is just the beginning of a process that costs the Burmese media thousands of dollars every year in what is often described as an “unofficial tax.” Each editorial submission must be made by filling out an application listing every news article at a charge of about US $1 per form. PSRD employees also expect regular sweeteners—a new flask, coffee maker or rice cooker—to keep the censorship process ticking over, journalists in Rangoon say.


But while most government departments are susceptible to the kind of bribery that undermines the rigid policies in Burma—a country which ranks in the top five most corrupt in the world—the PSRD cannot allow the press more editorial leeway, regardless of the price.

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