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The Ministry of Information announced new printing and publishing bylaws on 16 October, including a provision which extends the amount of time publications have to renew their operating licenses from one year to five years.
“Previously, publications seeking permission to operate were granted a temporary license for a six-month evaluation period, and after that a [permanent license] that had to be extended every year,” said Aung Kyaw Oo, director-general of the Ministry of Information’s Copyright and Registration Department. “Under the new rules, the permanent license will be valid for five years.”
Aung Kyaw Oo also said that under the previous rules, printing shops seeking to acquire licenses were divided into different categories, each of which had a different application fee, but those categories have been removed under the new rules.
“According to the old regulations, printing shop yearly application fees varied based on the category to which each shop belonged: 100,000 kyat (US$100) for category-1 printing shops; 60,000 kyat for category-2 printing shops; and 20,000 kyat for category-3 printing shops,” he said.
“Now the category system has been abolished, so everyone has to pay the same 50,000 kyat amount for a five-year license.”
Thiha Saw, an editor at the Myanmar Times, said the new printing and publishing rules are more lenient than the previous ones.
“It’s clear that the government still wants to maintain control over licenses and registration, but the new rules are more convenient. Now publishers can register not only in Naypyidaw but also at district-level government offices and online,” said Thiha Saw.
“Although the bad part is that the government still has the power to easily revoke one’s license, under the new rules we can now contest a license revocation in court. So while the new rules don’t meet our expectations 100 percent, we can say they meet 60-70 percent of our expectations and are much more relaxed than the past rules.”
So far, 20 private newspapers, more than 360 weekly news journals and more than 290 magazines have been granted licenses for circulation, but no licenses have yet been granted to news agencies.