Burma state newspaper promises ‘independent’ future

17-Jan-2014 Intellasia | AFP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The New Light of Myanmar, the state mouthpiece known for fiery junta-era pronouncements against international media, will be “editorially independent” when it is reborn as a partly private newspaper this year, a spokesman said.

Myanmar has sought to shed its image as an enemy of a free press by scrapping draconian censorship and allowing private daily newspapers as it implemented stunning political reforms since the end of outright military rule nearly three years ago.

The English-language New Light has also toned down its bombast in recent years, replacing rhetoric against critics and foreign media – such as accusing the BBC of “killer broadcasts” and “sowing hatred” – with celebrity gossip and sports.

It has been partly spun off by the state, with a Myanmar company taking a 49 percent stake in what the newspaper says will mean a new broadsheet style, more colour pages and a “people’s interest” focus.

“We will be like (Britain’s) Guardian newspaper,” said spokesman Ye Naing, an information ministry official.

“It will be editorially-independent. We did put some propaganda – like that the BBC is lying or killer on air – under the military government under the policy of the time,” he told AFP late Tuesday.

“But the government is different now. So there will be nothing like this at all.”

Ye Naing said in future the authorities would “not interfere”, but that the paper would be expected to be “ethical” and not conduct personal attacks or “incite conflict”.

A quasi-civilian regime under former general Thein Sein took power in 2011 and has since removed Internet restrictions, freed imprisoned journalists and lifted pre-publication censorship, which previously applied to everything from lottery numbers to fairytales.

But concerns over media freedoms remain, with journalists taking to the streets earlier this month to protest over the three month prison sentence handed to reporter Ma Khine, who works for the Eleven Media group, for defaming a lawyer and trespassing during an interview.

Her employer believes she may have been targeted because of a story it printed about corruption in the judicial system, while rights groups have warned that pressure on the press has shifted to a more litigious approach to dissuade critical stories.

Myanmar last year jumped 18 places to 151st out of 179 in a World Press Freedom Index compiled by media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders – its highest ever position.

Changes to the New Light of Myanmar are scheduled to come into effect in May, although the project is already several months behind schedule, Ye Naing said.



Category: Regional

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