Myanmar govt abolishes direct media censorship after 50 years

Myanmar abolished direct media censorship on Monday, the latest dramatic reform by its quasi-civilian regime, but journalists face other formidable restrictions including a ban on private daily newspapers and a pervasive culture of self-censorship.

Under the new rules, journalists no longer have to submit reports to state censors before publication, ending a practice strictly enforced during nearly half a century of military rule that ended in March last year.

Previously, every song, book, cartoon, news report and planned piece of art required approval by teams of censors rooting out political messages and criticisms of one of Asia's most repressive governments.

Changes have gathered steam since June last year when the Ministry of Information decided to allow about half of Myanmar's privately run weekly journals and monthly magazines to publish without submitting page proofs to a censorship board in advance.

On Monday, restrictions were lifted on the remaining 80 political and six religious journals, said Tint Swe, head of the press censorship board at the Ministry of Information. Over the past year, Myanmar has introduced the most sweeping reforms in the former British colony since a 1962 military coup. A semi-civilian government, stacked with former generals, has allowed elections, eased rules on protests and freed dissidents among other changes.

Papers have since been testing the boundaries, often putting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on front pages and giving coverage to government critics. Editors say this was unthinkable before the middle of last year.

Privately run daily newspapers are still not permitted, leaving a monopoly to state-run papers.

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