Media watchdogs slam journal ban

Sept 1, 2009 (DVB), Two media watchdogs have said the recent closure of a Burmese weekly journal by the government may stem from "a desire to settle old scores" between the junta and editor.

Last month the Burmese government's Censorship Board closed the Rangoon journal, Phoenix, citing breaches of censorship regulations.

Today a statement issued by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) and the Burma Media Association (BMA) condemned the action, claiming the reason went beyond just an issue of violations of press standards.

"Part of the motive for the permanent ban appears to be a desire to settle old scores with [Phoenix editor] Mar-J, who is also a former Major in the Burmese Air Force," said the statement.

"But after publishing satirical articles about the military junta, he was removed from his post."

Phoenix had been active for only seven months, yet had already been subject to a temporary ban following other alleged problems over censorship.

Burma has one of the strictest media environments in the world, and was last year ranked 170 out of 173 countries in RSF's Press Freedom Index.

Any published criticism of the government is forbidden, and journalists often receive lengthy prison sentences for alleged dissent.

"This ban is a sad example of the censorship to which Burma's privately-owned media are constantly exposed," the statement said, adding that "the publication of critical articles is not grounds for such a ban".

Magazines and journals are required to send all articles to the Censorship Board for verification days prior to publication. Due to financial costs of printing and reprinting pages, many editors complain of being forced to self-censor.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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