Yangon: Myanmar is poised to adopt a new
media law that could sweep away half a century of heavy-handed
censorship, as an increasingly impatient press cautiously test
the boundaries of newly-won freedoms.
In perhaps the most eye-catching reform among a raft of
changes in the country formerly known as Burma, reports on
democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi are no longer taboo as the new
government moves towards allowing a free press.
Journalists have also been released from prison and the
country crept up media watchdog Reporters Without Borders`
rankings last year -- to 169 out of 179 -- amid a lightening
of one of the world`s most draconian scrutiny regimes.
Now news editors are eagerly waiting to be released from
the shackles of pre-publication censorship, with the promised
abolition of the information ministry`s Press Scrutinisation
and Registration Department (PSRD).
"In the parliament... everybody agreed that the
censorship board should be closed," Ye Htut, director general
at the ministry, said, adding that unless the draft media
law is altered the department will be closed.
The draft has not been made public, but some media
organisations have been invited to submit proposals.
Privately-run English-language weekly the Myanmar Times
said its 11 articles cover areas such as journalists` rights,
professional ethics, and how publishers and distributors will
Tint Swe, the deputy director general of the PSRD, said
the draft law was on the attorney general`s desk, according to
a report in the Myanmar Times.
It is not expected to be adopted during the current
parliament session -- dominated by the first budget since the
junta relinquished power to a nominally-civilian regime last
year -- but he said the law would be passed in 2012.
"After that there won`t be any more censorship," Tint Swe
Myanmar, a military dictatorship for nearly half a
century, has long sought to stifle the press, creating an
information void, where momentous events were simply ignored
or whispered in private in a swirl of rumour.