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The indefinite suspension of two prominent news journals, The Voice and Envoy, has journalists calling for better protection of Burma’s fourth estate.
The newly minted Media Freedom Committee, comprised of Rangoon-based journalists – condemned the government’s actions and issued a seven-point response, which included abolishing the draconian 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law and expelling any “backward leaning individual” from the government who might endanger the country’s reform process.
The group said that any media law that was drawn up without the consultation of working media professionals would be deemed unacceptable and demanded that The Voice, Envoy and Snapshot be allowed to resume publishing immediately.
Snapshot’s operations remain shuttered after the journal published a photograph of Thida Htwe’s corpse, whose rape and murder helped set off the sectarian violence in Arakan state in June.
According to a report from Eleven Media, Snapshot was given the green light to resume operations on 9 August according to the publication’s editor Myat Khine’s facebook page after the journal received a one-month suspension in June.
However, Snapshot is still facing an impending lawsuit.
After unrolling a series of reforms, under Burma’s new civilian government the media environment has enjoyed a relaxation of several of the previous junta’s censorship statutes. However, without new media legislation in place, journalists are still vulnerable to prosecution under opaque laws that allows for publications to be suspended for vague infractions.
In April, the Myanmar Post Global had a portion of its operations suspended after the periodical failed to submit articles to censors before being printed.
Burma’s legal system is purposefully vague and press freedom is stifled by forcing publishers to submit copy for inspection before printing in accordance with the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law and the 12 press scrutiny policies that are still on the books.