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Private Free Press Returns To Burma

Burmese customers at a news stand.
Burmese customers at a news stand.

The United States welcomes the move toward broader media freedom.

Burma’s transition to becoming a more open and democratic nation took another step forward this month as the government authorized for the first time in the country’s modern history the publication of private daily newspapers.

Private Free Press Returns To Burma
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The United States welcomes the move toward broader media freedom as further indication of the government’s commitment to reform. We encourage all media outlets in the Southeast Asian nation to strive for responsible and objective journalism.

Private daily newspapers in Burmese, English and other languages were forced to close under military rule in the 1960s, and strict press censorship was imposed. The controls have gradually been relaxed as part of broad political, economic, and social reforms by President Thein Sein when he took office in 2011.

Last August, the government announced that reporters would no longer be required to submit their work to state censors before publication or broadcast. In December the Government of Burma decided to permit the establishment of privately-owned daily newspapers, effective April 1. So far, 16 papers have been granted licenses, four of which are now on the newsstands.

While press restrictions have been eased the Burmese media still face a challenging operating environment and concerns persist about remaining laws that limit press freedom. Controls can be reapplied in the event of a government-declared national emergency.

Burmese officials have solicited advice from the United States government in developing a new media law. Earlier this year a delegation of Burmese journalists and government officials traveled to the United States to consult with American media experts and discuss ways to further open Burma’s media sector.

This exchange demonstrated the United States support for Burmese authorities, journalists and civil society in their efforts to establish new media laws and open the press environment.

As the Burmese government continues on the path of democratic reform, the United States remains committed to helping Burma ensure greater press freedoms and a more inclusive and open society.