Melon Farmers Original Version

Press Censorship in Burma

World leaders in oppressive censorship


Update: Prisoners of Conscience...

Amnesty International reports that Burma's journalists are caught between state censorship and self-censorship

Link Here 17th June 2015
Myanmar's authorities are intensifying restrictions on media as the country approaches elections in November, using threats, harassment and imprisonment to stifle independent journalists and outlets, Amnesty International said in a new briefing.

The Amnesty report, titled Caught between state censorship and self-censorship: Prosecution and intimidation of media workers in Myanmar, shows how, despite Myanmar's much-touted political opening since 2011, authorities are relying on old and new methods to intimidate media and restrict freedom of expression. The clampdown has intensified over the past year, today at least 10 media workers are languishing in prison, all of them jailed in the last 12 months. All are prisoners of conscience.

Myanmar's media landscape has changed dramatically since the reform process started in 2011. From a handful of media outlets controlled through strict pre-publication censorship, today there exists a vibrant media scene with several independent newspapers and broadcast channels. Yet widespread repression of media continues in Myanmar, as authorities rely on a range of draconian, vaguely formulated laws to imprison journalists.

Amnesty International's interviews with media workers revealed that the threat of imprisonment and constant surveillance have led to widespread self-censorship. Journalists are well aware of what red lines they cannot cross, mainly stories relating to the military, extremist Buddhist nationalism and the plight of the Rohingya minority, and often shy away from covering these issues.

The case of the Unity media workers is one such example. Five workers at the paper were each jailed for seven years in July 2014 after their newspaper published a story on an alleged secret chemical weapons factory. Their imprisonment is frequently cited by journalists as an example of what can happen if they step over the line in their reporting on the army.

Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International's Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific said:

What we are seeing in Myanmar today is repression dressed up as progress. Authorities are still relying on the same old tactics, arrests, surveillance, threats and jail time to muzzle those journalists who cover inconvenient topics.

As people in Myanmar go to the polls later this year, a free press will be more important than ever to inform the public about the choices they face and strengthen their access to information. The government must immediately release all journalists jailed for simply carrying out their work peacefully, publicly commit to respect freedom of expression, and repeal all laws used to silence peaceful dissenting voices and critics.

The international community also has a key role to play in pushing the Myanmar authorities to end the repression of media. They must actively and publicly push for the release of imprisoned media workers and all other prisoners of conscience, while keeping a close watch over the fragile human rights situation in the months leading up to the elections.



Update: Poison Pens...

Burmese journalists jailed for 10 years for reporting on the building of a chemical weapons factory

Link Here21st July 2014
Five journalists in Burma have been sentenced to 10 years in prison for disclosing state secrets after their newspaper reported on the building of an alleged chemical weapons factory.

Their trial began in February following the article's publication the month before . Their paper, the Unity Journal, has been forced to close due to the costs needed to organise the defence of the five men.

They were convicted under the 1923 Burma State Secrets Act. Tin San's lawyer, Kyaw Lin, said the verdict was totally unfair , adding: These people are not spies ... They were just reporting.



Update: Black Days in Burma...

Newspapers blacked out in a protest against the jailing of 5 journalists

Link Here17th April 2014
On April 11, several Myanmar newspapers and journals blacked-out their front pages to protest the jailing of journalists by the national government.

The Myanmar Journalist Network says five journalists are currently detained in Myanmar, despite the government's commitment to further expand media freedom in the country.

The protest was organized right after a multimedia reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), an independent online publication, was sentenced by a local court to one year in prison for trespassing on government property and disrupting the work of a government official. The case involved Zaw Pe, a reporter covering a Japanese-funded scholarship program in 2012. He was accused of trespassing after attempting to visit and take footage at an office of the national Department of Education in central Myanmar during office hours.

In an interview with, DVB bureau chief Toe Zaw Latt called the sentence outrageous :

He was taking the video recording during office hours. It's outrageous that he is being sentenced for trespassing...We have to question the degree of press freedom in the country.

These are not good signs for press freedom, if journalists have to face a lawsuit for covering news during office hours. We are worried that these actions might be a sign of restrictions in press freedom again, as it was in the past.



Update: Daily Improvement...

Private newspapers return to Burma

Link Here1st April 2013

Private daily newspapers are being sold in Burma for the first time in almost 50 years. Sixteen papers have so far been granted licences, although only four have started on the first day of the new regulatory regime.

This is another important milestone on Burma's journey away from authoritarian rule, the BBC's Jonathan Head reported from the commercial capital, Rangoon.



Update: Uncensored News...

Burma official dissolves its press censorship board

Link Here26th January 2013

Myanmar's notorious press censorship board was officially dissolved on Thursday in another nod towards press freedom since the government began to make democratic reforms two years ago.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) had not been in operation since August last year, when Myanmar announced it would lift its policy of prior censorship of all publications, which had been in place in the country since 1964. The state-run New Light of Myanmar reported:

The division under the Printing and Publishing Enterprise has stopped functioning since 20 August, 2012, to pave ways for freedom of press. Copyrights and Registration Division will be formed under Information and Public Relations Departmentr.



Updated: A Few Steps Forward, Then a Step Back...

Burma bans a slightly sexy fashion magazine

Link Here 12th January 2013

Burma's new reformist government has backtracked on the freeing up the press and banned a magazine covering fashion.

The Information Ministry claimed on its website that the monthly magazine Nhyot deviated from its charter as a fashion magazine by publishing sexually arousing photos and articles.

The December issue of the magazine carried several pictures of scantily clad Burmese women in provocative poses and articles that the editor said constituted sex education. The content appears tame by the standards of similar publications in the West or in neighboring Thailand, but Burma's authorities have a string legacy of censorial attitudes.

Nhyot editor Ko Oo Swe told The Associated Press that whether the photos were sexually arousing depended on the eyes of the beholder. He said other magazines have also published material that differs from their charter but have not been shut down.

Update: Another 6 publications put on the naughty step

12th January 2013. See  article from

Perhaps hiding behind the news that a fashion magazine has been banned for being too sexy lurks news of continuing Burmese press censorship.

A further six publications: Media One, The Farmer, Ad World, Myanandar, High Speed Car, New Blood and Aesthetics, were told they would be monitored for one month after publishing supposedly irrelevant content.

An interim press council, led by retired Supreme Court Judge Khin Maung Aye, was formed the following month with a mandate to promote media freedom. Press council member, Zaw Thet Htway, told DVB he is hopeful that Burma's repressive media laws will gradually be abolished:

The draft [media law] will be presented to the media later this month -- after their feedback and legal experts' opinion, a final, strong law will be presented to the parliament. We are optimistic that once the parliament approves the new law, all other oppressive media laws will gradually fade away.



Update: An Alternative View of Burma...

Privately owned newspapers to be unbanned from April 2013

Link Here 30th December 2012

Privately owned newspapers are to be allowed in Burma from April 2013 for the first time in almost 50 years, the government has announced.

The information ministry said on its website that any Burmese national wishing to set up a newspaper could submit an application from February. It said newspapers would be permitted in any language from 1 April 2013.

The move follows the abolition of direct government censorship of the media in April 2012. Correspondents say it was expected as part of the latest reforms in Burma.



Offsite Article: Chief Censor in Myanmar Caps His Red Pen...

Link Here 22nd September 2012
U Tint Swe looked around his office and said he felt a personal sense of loss. I'm proud that I'm the one who stopped it, he said, referring to censorship. But now my office feels like a ghost town.

See article from



Update: Ending a State Monopoly...

Burma set to allow the private sector to publish daily newspapers

Link Here 3rd September 2012

Myanmar's new information minister has predicted newspapers would be able to publish daily from early 2013, heralding fresh reform for a sector recently freed from decades of draconian censorship.

Aung Kyi told the Myanmar Times that state-owned newspapers, currently the only news publications able to be printed daily, would also be revamped with private sector involvement in the coming months.

It is my sincere belief that daily [private sector] newspapers are essential for a democratic country, said Aung Kyi, who replaced a prominent hardliner last week when he was appointed as part of a cabinet reshuffle seen as promoting reformists in Myanmar's government.

He declined to give a firm date for the issuing of daily publication licenses to private sector news groups but estimated it could be early next year.



Update: End of an Era...

Burma ends pre-publication press censorship

Link Here21st August 2012

Burma has ended pre-publication censorship of the country's media, the information ministry has announced.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD) said that as of Monday, reporters would no longer have to submit their work to state censors before publication.

However, strict laws remain in place which could see journalists punished for what they have written.

Tint Swe, head of the PSRD, told AFP news agency:

Censorship began on 6 August 1964 and ended 48 years and two weeks later.

Any publication inside the country will not have to get prior permission from us before they are published.

From now on, our department will just carry out registering publications for keeping them at the national archives and issuing a license to printers and publishers..

The head of the BBC's Burmese Service, Tin Htar Shwe, says journalists in Burma are cautiously optimistic about the reforms, but that the end of the law does not necessarily mean the end of the censorship altogether. Many laws still exist under which journalists can be punished for writing material which angers or offends the government, she says.



Update: Press Censorship Continues...

Journalists refuse to become Burma's new press censors

Link Here 15th August 2012

Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA) representatives have told Information Minister Kyaw Hsan that they will not take part in the new 20-member Myanmar Core Press Council (MCPC) until changes to reduce its censorship powers.

The MCPC was formed to censor the press until the new Media Law is passed later this year, but five MJA members on the council told a meeting that they will not take any part until amendments are made to its authority.

Thiha Saw, an MCPC member and vice-chairman of the MJA, said:

We asked to amend eight points in the MCPC's obligations and authorities as it now looks like it will be replacing the tasks of the censorship board.

We cannot perform the censorship board's job, he added. It is also against international standards. The council is to protect journalists and the freedom of the press.

Journalists asked to delete four points:

  • to supervise the work of the press which is deemed detrimental to the public interests, dignity of the state and national sovereignty;
  • to scrutinize imported publications so they conform with the national interest;
  • exercising authority in accordance with the Evidence Act, Penal Code, Code of Civil Procedure and Tort; and
  • MCPC members enjoying immunity from prosecution.

The MJA said that the current regulations contradict recent discussions with current press censors at the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD)..

Kyaw Hsan said that the MCPC's activities will be postponed until the dispute with the MJA is settled. In the meantime, the PSRD informed journals on Sunday that they must continue to submit stories to the censor board as usual.



Updated: Envoy to the Press Censor...

Journalists protest broken promises on easing press censorship in Burma

Link Here 8th August 2012

Dozens of journalists marched in Burma's main city, Yangon, to protest the suspension of two journals amid broken promises on easing strict censorship laws.

The Voice Weekly and The Envoy were suspended last week for failing to submit stories for pre-publication censorship. The chief censor said that the temporary suspension may last for a fortnight.

The editor of the Voice Weekly, Kyaw Min Swe, said the ban on his publication related to the front page story on a cabinet reshuffle and cartoons criticising the current media freedoms in the country.

The protesting reporters, many wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan Stop Killing (the) Press in Burmese and English marched to several sites across Yangon, including the two publishing houses behind the suspended weeklies.

A petition by the newly-formed press freedom committee called for an end to all oppressive media laws.

The government had recently taken a lighter touch on some of the less controversial publications, prompting some editors to test the boundaries of the new found freedoms.

Update: Unbanned

8th August 2012. See  article from

Reporters Without Borders and its partner organization, the Burma Media Association, welcomed the announcement by the government that it is lifting the suspension it imposed a week ago on two weeklies, The Voice and The Envoy. The two organizations said:

We take note of this decision and the fact that the government allowed journalists to express that discontent without obstruction.  But we will continue to monitor the situation closely and we reiterate our call for the withdrawal of legal proceedings against The Voice and another newspaper, Snapshot.

It is also high time the government disbanded its censorship office, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, which is not in any way legitimized by the lack of a new media law.

Several newspapers, including The Nation and The Messenger, voiced their support for the closed weeklies.The Messenger printed its front page in black with the article of the constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression in white letters.



Update: Envoy to the Press Censor...

Journalists protest broken promises on easing press censorship in Burma

Link Here 5th August 2012

Dozens of journalists marched in Burma's main city, Yangon, to protest the suspension of two journals amid broken promises on easing strict censorship laws.

The Voice Weekly and The Envoy were suspended last week for failing to submit stories for pre-publication censorship. The chief censor said that the temporary suspension may last for a fortnight.

The editor of the Voice Weekly, Kyaw Min Swe, said the ban on his publication related to the front page story on a cabinet reshuffle and cartoons criticising the current media freedoms in the country.

The protesting reporters, many wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan Stop Killing (the) Press in Burmese and English marched to several sites across Yangon, including the two publishing houses behind the suspended weeklies.

A petition by the newly-formed press freedom committee called for an end to all oppressive media laws.

The government had recently taken a lighter touch on some of the less controversial publications, prompting some editors to test the boundaries of the new found freedoms.


13th October

Update: Burma Uncensored...

Hopeful signals of increased freedom in Burma

The head of Burma's powerful press censorship department has called for greater media freedom in his country.

Tint Swe said censorship was now incompatible with democratic practices and should be abolished in the near future ...BUT... He cautioned that all publications should accept the responsibilities that go with press freedom.

The comments will be seen as further evidence that the new civilian-military hybrid government is trying to soften its stance.

Some previously blocked websites have also recently been made accessible.

The Burmese government has also freed about 200 political prisoners as part of a general amnesty, activists say.


12th September

Update: Censorship is still needed in Burma...

Says the censor

  Censorship of the Burmese media is still needed and freedom should not be granted to newspapers and journals at this time, Information and Culture Minister Kyaw Hsan told the Lower House of Parliament.

The minister made his comments in reply to a motion to enact a law which can protect the rights to freedom of expression and opinion by the media and the right to disseminate and publish the news by Rangoon Region Thingangyun constituency MP Thein Nyunt during deliberations.

Kyaw Hsan said:

Although laws and courts have come into operation in Myanmar, press scrutiny still plays a role. If media personnel face their problems in court under the law, their losses may be heavier. In its control tasks, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division may sometimes issue only warnings to the offenders and negotiate with both sides. Therefore, the division scrutinizes inappropriate writing against the nation and the people under the law for the sake of those from the literary world and the people.


4th July

Update: A Picture of Repression...

Sponsore Melon Farmers vis Patreon
Burma's press censor bans magazine cover picture of Aung San Suu Kyi

A picture of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the cover of the Rangoon-based Dharma Yeik Buddhist magazine has been banned, according to the editor of the magazine. The religious magazine carries news, poems, cartoons and articles on Buddhism.

In the photo, Suu Kyi is shown donating a robe to a young Buddhist novice. It was to be used as the cover of the magazine's July issue. The magazine has substituted a picture of a flower for Suu Kyi's photo on its front cover.

We submitted the manuscript with the cover featuring Suu Kyi's photo; the censor board told us to use another photo. Suu Kyi's photo was not allowed , the editor, Moe Tun, told Mizzima.

Under Burma's new censorship policy, religious publications still must pass their manuscripts and pictures through the censorship board and also the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

According to Rangoon-based editors, the censorship board has allowed some Suu Kyi photos and news about Suu Kyi, but her photo on a front cover and photographs larger than 3 x 5 inches may not be allowed.


16th May

Update: True Censorship...

Burmese newspaper suspended for 2 weeks

In the first press suspension under the new Burmese government, the Rangoon-based True News newspaper has been suspended for two weeks for reporting controversial information, according to local journalists.

The publication's editors were summoned to the censor board office and ordered to sign a pledge not to violate press regulations, a source close to the editors told Mizzima. It was the first suspension of a newspaper under the new government led by President Thein Sein.

The cause of the dispute and suspension was information in volume 3, number 34, which reported: Everyone who owns a 1.5 million kyat (US$ 1,660) GSM phone is qualified to buy a 500,000 kyat GSM phone at a price of only 180,000 kyat . Local journalists said the information had appeared in print in an earlier report.

According to a source close to the journal, the Posts and Telecommunications office reprimanded True News, threatened to sue, and the censorship board stepped in and punished the journal for the report.


10th April

Update: Uncensored Sport...

Burma to end press censorship for publications that don't publish politics, business or news

The Burma junta's censorship board director Tint Swe said that the new parliamentary government would relax the current press censorship policy in accordance with the new Constitution, the Flower News Journal reported.

' The first step will be made on the day the new government takes office. But, as a result of the freedom of the press, the publications need to take responsibility, the journal quoted Tint Swe as saying.

Tint Swe also said that publishers and journalists of most journals and magazines will not need to pass articles through the censor board prior to publication.

... HOWEVER ... the new policy only applies to publications focusing on sport, entertainment, general knowledge, health, children's literature, the supernatural and technology. Publications which print articles about politics, business and news will still need to pass articles through the censorship board prior to publication.

Books and journals that have already been published will need to go via the censor board after publication. Printing houses and publishers must also be licensed by the state.

Update: Warnings

1st July 2011. See  article from

Burma's draconian censorship board, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), has issued a warning to several Rangoon-based journals not to try to take advantage of the PSRD's new post-publishing censorship regulation.

Editors at several weekly journals have been ordered to sign statements promising not to violate press regulations either in print or in photography. At least six journal signed the pledge the first day, said a Rangoon-based sports journal editor.

Beginning on June 10, publishers were permitted to run stories on sports, entertainment, technology, health and children's literature without PSRD approval. However, they were instructed that they still have to follow rules protecting the Three National Causes ---the basic principles espoused by Burma's military rulers---and avoid any writing that damages state instability.

Update: Business and Crime

17th December 2011. See  article from  

Myanmar has loosened press censorship on business and crime publications, local media reported.

A total of 54 journals, magazines and books will no longer have to submit their content to censors before publication, according to a report in the Myanmar Times, after changes introduced on December 9.

News media will continue to be subject to pre-publication censorship.


10th July

Update: A New Leaf?...Not...

Burma relaxes on requirement for all journals to publish a page of government propaganda

News publications in Burma have welcomed a minor relaxing of regulations by the country's censor board which will see them no longer having to allocate a page for government propaganda articles.

Magazines, journals and newspapers have long been required to republish text from state-run outlets such as the New Light of Myanmar newspaper. Revised rules now state however that only on occasion will reprints be necessary.

This is good, we welcome it, said one Rangoon-based journal editor, who spoke to DVB on condition of anonymity. Before we had to republish the articles given by the censor board on one page; now we have one more page to publish our own choice of content.

But the move comes less than a fortnight after a wave of new rules were enacted by the censor board that journalists said were unprecedented in their severity. The regulations will implement uniform restrictions across media outlets, meaning that some newspapers and journals which had been able to operate comparatively freely will now be tightly controlled.

The Burmese junta resides over one of the world's strictest media environments, and consistently ranks at the tail-end press freedom indexes. All material is required to pass through the censor board, known as the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), prior to being published.

The PSRD is overseen by the government's information ministry and is considered very much a wing of the military regime, which has ruled Burma in various guises since a coup in 1962.


2nd June

Update: The Voice Silenced...

Burma bans journals for reporting actress tiff and the Thai unrest

Burma's press censor, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) has suspended two local journals, The Voice and First Music .

Before printing, they have to send the draft articles and photos to the division and only the permitted articles can be printed. But [in this case] they published articles that we didn't give them permission to publish, said PSRD director U Tint Swe, adding that the suspension would not last more than two weeks.

Both journals published articles about a recent incident involving actress Htet Htet Moe Oo without permission.

U Kyaw Min Swe, chief editor of The Voice , said he accepted the suspension but believed the journal did the right thing publishing three articles without permission in its May 24 edition.

U Kyaw Min Swe said the articles published without permission concerned local alarm about storms and cyclones, the Thai riots and a clash between Htet Htet Moe Oo and a journalist from 7-Day News.


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