ALEXANDRE GUIRAUD WRITES – Myanmar’s Ministry of Information has seen concerned unions protest the draft of the Printing and Publishing Law that has been submitted to the parliament. When instated in 2011, the New Government expressed that changes aimed towards the freedom of expression would take place, contrary to the laws that were held by the previously authoritarian government. For the past several months, there has been some progress in this sense, for example, the government has issued visas to more journalists and some publishing companies have moved their headquarters back to Myanmar. However, this progress is short-lived and beginning to be questioned by citizens.
Journalists from the Committee for Freedom of Press of Myanmar, and the media groups Myanmar Journalists’ Association (MJA), Myanmar Journalists’ Network (MJN), and Myanmar Journalists’ Union (MJU) have called on the government to revoke the law, claiming that it is fairly similar to the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law that was implemented by the oppressive regime. According to these groups, the passing of this bill would be a “serious blow to freedom of expression and freedom of press,” stressing the controversial nature of the power that will be held by the official in charge of the registration of publishers, as he or she will basically have control over the entire printing press. The government, however, has not made any official statements regarding the plea to dismiss the law. The Minister of Information, Aung Kyi, on the other hand, stated that, “the new bill will not have a negative impact on freedom of expression in the country.”
How many times have free-press advocates heard that one?