ALEXANDRE GUIRAUD WRITES – After a half century of a media system controlled by an authoritarian government, Myanmar is finally seeing a shift toward its better angels.
No longer will the media face such stringent censorship or fear government repercussions up to an including death. But as private daily newspapers are now hitting the street, much of the population is left confused, with few having ever experienced an even-somewhat free press.
In the last year, the country’s quasi-civilian government has taken a series of steps toward media openness. The first was when it removed the pre-publication censorship committee, giving journalists more flexibility in their daily work. Following that, the government substantially increased the number of visas issued to international journalists, making Myanmar more global in the media spectrum. And now, after waiting a lifetime, Myanmar’s private newspapers are allowed to print.
It hasn’t been without hiccups. Of the 16 newspapers licensed by the Ministry of Information, only four were to be found in newsstands during a recent survey by the BBC.
Still, participants and readers are both clearly thrilled. Khin Maung Lay, EIC of Golden Fresh Land, said that when his paper fired up the presses for the first time, its initial run of 80,000 copies sold out in a matter of hours. Added Aung Soe, an editor of The Voice, “we prepared for about six months to become a daily newspaper. We wanted to be part of this historical milestone.”