Imagining a Censorship-free Burma
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Imagining a Censorship-free Burma

By THE IRRAWADDY Friday, October 14, 2011

In this photo taken on September 6, 2011, a man shows a Pyithu Khit private journal featuring an article written by Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a market in Rangoon. (Photo: Reuters)

Last week, Tint Swe, the director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), surprised Burma watchers by telling the Washington-based Radio Free Asia that the notorious censorship board he heads should be abolished as part of the country's moves toward reform.

“Press censorship is non-existent in most other countries as well as among our neighbors, and as it is not in harmony with democratic practices, press censorship should be abolished in the near future,” he said.

Tint Swe's remarks have raised hopes that a new era of press freedom could be coming to Burma in the near future. Below is a sampling of responses to his comments from some leading members of the country's media community.

Ko Ko, CEO of the Rangoon Media Group

Ko Ko
I welcome U Tint Swe's comment that there shouldn’t be a censorship board. Without censorship, we can work freely, as long as we stay within the bounds of ethics and journalistic integrity. We will have to take responsibility for what we write, but we won’t have to worry if we respect the law and the principles of journalism.

If there’s a new media law, more daily newspapers will be published. Actually, daily newspapers are necessary for the country to achieve democracy. Without a strong fourth pillar, the other three pillars of society will lack support. Burma needs more privately owned media, because unlike the state-run media, it is free.

Thiha Saw, chief editor of Open News Journal and Myanma Dana Economic Magazine

I think getting rid of censorship is a very good idea. There will be a lot more freedom, but we will still have our responsibilities. We've also heard that the government has started working on a new media law, but we don’t know yet what it will entail.

Maung Wun Tha, editorial adviser to Pyithu Khit Journal

Maung Wun Tha
I think it's very good news for journalists and people in the media community. Of course, there will definitely be some challenges and difficulties if we change from the current system to a new one. But we will never achieve anything if we just worry about this and cling to the old system. The main thing is to prepare for and face the challenges.

The more daily newspapers there are, the better it will be for the people. The newspapers will be able to convey information to the public much more quickly, and it will be easier for the people to offer their criticism than it is now. It is good not to have censorship.

The government will still exercise control over some matters, to prevent publication of anything that violates religious or cultural values, for example. The government will still need to warn or take action against them those who violate these things.

Thaung Htike, CEO of True News Journal

It is good to hear that U Tint Swe has said the PSRD should be abolished. We welcome his words. We also hope that they will come true.

Aunt Min Khaung, assistant editor of the Hot News Journal

It is a very good sign that the head of the PSRD has admitted that there should be no censorship. Everyone wants freedom of press and expression. I think that there will be no censorship in near future.

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May Khaing Wrote:
Myanmar needs press freedom and more journalists than other counties, so the rest of the world can see what is happening inside Myanmar as well as our own people.

Marty Myanmar Wrote:
There will be an tremendous increase in the number of publications and types of publications. The quality will improve too.
I will limit my time, attention and money to those publications that provide the most professional delivery of stories that I seek. Of course there will always be those who will love to read the slander too. But which publications will the influential read and will decisions be made upon the information taken? Market forces will eliminate the weak and poorly sourced players.

But for now I can read almost everything as there is such few of it.

timothy Wrote:
Free all political leaders from prisons. recognize the legal status of opposition parties and ethnic minorities. Form the interim government of national unity.Start the National reconciliatory talks ASAP. All military administrators could be pardoned from their heinous crimes provided they actively contribute towards the democracy and declare to go back to barrack and be subordinate to the civilian rule.. Press freedom will come automatically. Until such time arrived, the army could stage the coup d'etat at any time and derail any process now. Do not trust any of army guys yet.

Nwe Sane Wrote:
Freedom of expression is one of the basic human rights. Very much welcome for that speech. Please start as soon as possible.

Terry Evans Wrote:
Democracy means: the right to think freely, speak freely, write and publish freely, organize and associate freely. This is the very essence of our struggle for a free Burma.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Very good news for Burma. Not so good news for traitors. Just wait and see what will come out of the woodwork.

Remember real media freedom is when there is no barrier to entry - and it is double-edged.

Richard Aung Myint Wrote:
Another small step for country and people. Hope it happens soon. This is welcome news.

Shwe Aung Wrote:
There are invisible censorships in the country which has law for freedom of press, freedom of speech and etc. The censorships were done by owners of the media establishments. If they do not like the candidate, they write only negative thing about that candidate.

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