Myanmar's Journalists Can Now Censor Their Own Stories

Dashiell Bennett
20 August 2012

The government of Myanmar is ending a 50-year practice of requiring journalists to submit all their stories to a censor board before publication, but there's a catch, of course. According to The Associated Press' Yadana Htun, the censor board still exists and will continue to monitor publications. It can also still suspend licenses and punish those who violate their laws. The difference is that now they'll be reviewing articles after they've already been published, putting the onus of self-censorship on the journalists themselves.

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Even so, it's a major step forward for a country that has had essentially zero press freedom since a military takeover in 1962. Under those strict rules, all media — books, music, cartoons, art — had to pass by a government censor board lest they "threaten peace and stability." Since its first general election in 2010, however, the government has very slowly and cautiously relaxed some of its rules, even allowing opposition leader (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Aung San Suu Kyi to leave her house arrest and the country to promote democracy abroad.

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All great reforms don't happen overnight, however. Just last month, the government censors banned two weekly news magazines from publishing altogether, but the ban was lifted over the weekend and they were allowed resume publishing. Freedom press thing takes a little getting used to.

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