Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Media of Burma

Before British colonisation in Burma (Myanmar), the local media was very active. In 1836, the country's first newspaper, The Maulmain Chronicle, was published. The King at this time, King Mindon, was an strong advocate of press' freedom and is the reason for the creation of the Burma's first Burmese language newspaper, Yadanapon Naypyidaw Thadinsa. This paper was to to report on the King and the Queen, even if it was in a negative way. Throughout the entire colonial era, there was a steady increase in circulation of publications. In 1911, there were 44 periodicals and newspapers in Burma, and 103 in 1921. By the end of the 1930s, there were over 200 newspapers and periodicals, double the what there was in 1921. During Burma's temporary independence from The United Kingdom in 1948 until 1962, the country experienced a temporary period of democracy and free media. Journalist, U Thaung, founded The Mirror Daily in 1957, and its 90,000 circulation was Burma's largest circulation ever.

However since those times, the media has undergone very strict censorship and regulation. This started with the 1962 Burmese coup d'etat. The constitution of Burma provides for their freedom of speech and of the press, but the government prohibits the excercise of these rights. Reporters Without Borders rankerd Burma number 174 out of 178 in its Press Freedom Index of 2010. Burma was ranked just ahead of Iran, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea on their freedom of the press. There have been several efforts within Burma to life censorship. The head of the country's Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, Tint Swe, expressed to Radio Free that censorship of the media, "should be abolished in the near future" because it is "non-existent in most other countries" and therefore "not in harmony with democratic practices."

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