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Media censorship ends in Myanmar

YANGON — Myanmar abolished direct media censorship today, the latest dramatic reform by its quasi-civilian regime, but journalists face other formidable restrictions including a ban on private daily newspapers and a pervasive culture of self-censorship.

Under the new rules, journalists no longer have to submit reports to state censors before publication, ending a practice strictly enforced during nearly half a century of military rule that ended in March last year.

“This is a step in the right direction and a good approach, but questions of press freedom will remain,” said Aung Thu Nyein, a senior associate at the Vahu Development Institute, a Thailand-based think tank.

“We can expect the government to still try to assert some control, probably using national security to keep the media in check,” he added.

Previously, every song, book, cartoon, news report and planned piece of art required approval by teams of censors rooting out political messages and criticisms of one of Asia’s most repressive governments.

Changes have gathered steam since June last year when the Ministry of Information decided to allow about half of Myanmar’s privately run weekly journals and monthly magazines to publish without submitting page proofs to a censorship board in advance.

Today, restrictions were lifted on the remaining 80 political and six religious journals, said Tint Swe, head of the press censorship board at the Ministry of Information.

Over the past year, Myanmar, also known as Burma, has introduced the most sweeping reforms in the former British colony since a 1962 military coup. A semi-civilian government, stacked with former generals, has allowed elections, eased rules on protests and freed dissidents among other changes. (Reuters)

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