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Fourth estate to be censor-free by June

The Burmese government’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, commonly known as the censor board, announced last week that the government would not longer be censoring literary or journalistic works.

Deputy director Tint Swe of the Ministry of Information’s PSRD said at a press conference in Rangoon on 15 May that creative texts, such as novels and poems, will be able to publish without pre-approval by the censor board.

Tint Swe said periodicals that cover politics and religion would be sent to the presses without being censored next month as well.

“Generally, this implies that all censorship will come to [end] in our country by June of 2012 –both the president and the Minister [of Information Kyaw Hsan] have sent signals [indicating this],” said Tint Swe.

“We are looking to form a press council under the president’s order and expect it to materialise in June and as soon as it happens, political and religious literature will go censor-free.”

After the PSRD is abolished this June, the press council will be tasked with tackling issues involving regulations that infringe on the fourth estate’s rights, communication with international press organisations, mediating disputes and training media workers within the country.

“By press council we mean a body that could protect writers’ and journalists’ right to freedom of expression. We’re now discussing how to establish such a body within our country’s current context,” said Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association (MWJA)’s Secretary Ko Ko during an interview with the Myanmar Times.

Writer and former politician Wai Hmuu Thwin welcomed the move by the government saying that freedom from censorship could lead to a renaissance in the Burmese literature scene.

“Now that we are granted freedom, we can add more creativity to our material,” said Wai Hmuu Thwin.

Under the draconian 1962 Publishers and Printers Registration Law writers were unable to address topics such as poverty or describe cultural relationships that were deemed taboo.

Veteran writer Thitsar Ni, known for his satirical works noted, while there will no longer be established pre-censorship, writers and publications need to be more vigliant because the country lacks effective laws that will protect publishers once books or articles are printed.

“One can publish without going through [censorship], but they are also liable to be punished if they cross the line – such as with political [writing] and also there have been cases in the past when some writers were charged for writing erotica,” said Thitsar Ni.

According to Thitsar Ni, writers should seize the new liberties they’ve been granted and channel it into their creative works; however, these freedoms come with more responsibilities.

“Writers and journalists should maintain their ethnics and be careful not to overdo it so that these [rights] will be sustainable,” said Thitsar Ni.


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