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Myanmar ends media censorship

Myanmar's government officially ended the censorship of local publications today.

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Myanmar's heavily censored media will put down the black markerpen for good, signalling the end of one of the world's most draconian press scrutiny regimes. (AFP/Getty/AFP/Getty Images)

Myanmar's government officially ended the censorship of local publications today. 

Journalists no longer have to submit reports to Myanmar state censors before publication, according to Reuters, ending a practice strictly enforced for nearly 50 years. 

Aung Thu Nyein, a senior associate at the Vahu Development Institute, told Reuters, "This is a step in the right direction and a good approach, but questions of press freedom will remain. We can expect the government to still try to assert some control, probably using national security to keep the media in check."

According to the Washington Post, reporters in Myanmar are subjected to "routine state surveillance, phone taps and censorship so intense that independent papers could not publish on a daily basis." 

GlobalPost's Hanna Ingber recently traveled to Myanmar and reported on the troubles journalists have long faced.

"In the past, when a military dictatorship ran Myanmar (also called Burma) for close to five decades, the rules were clear. If someone said anything critical of the regime or any aspect of the country, he or she could face trouble with the authorities."

Ingber added that if she wanted to remain in the country and write for the Myanmar Times that she would have to stay away from anything political. "I couldn’t meet anti-government activists, travel to parts of the country prohibited to foreigners or write about the allegations of human rights violations against the junta."

Tint Swe, the head of the ministry’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Department, told the Washington Post that the censorship board will not be abolished but will stay and retain the power to suspend publications or revoke publishing licenses if it deems publishing rules are violated.

While state-run censorship may be ending, many believe self-censorship is just beginning. 

The Wall Street Journal noted that many Burmese journalists are awaiting details of the government-appointed press council that is "designed to oversee ethics, training, and, to some extent, mediate disputes between publications and the government organizations they write about."

For Nyein Nyein Naing, an executive editor at 7 Day News journal, ending the pre-publication censorship may be enough. Naing told the AFP, "As a journalist, I'm glad that we don't need to send our stories to the scrutiny board. We have worried for many years and it's ended today."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/myanmar/120820/myanmar-ends-media-censorship