Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The Burmese government announced in August that it has abolished censorship of its media. Dessi Damianova is coordinator Southeast Asia at Free Press Unlimited: “This sounds great, but it's still a long way to absolute press freedom. The end of censorship still only applies to weekly magazines. For all daily publications, that are under strict control of the government, this does not yet apply.“

“Censorship for all local publications is lifted from August 20, 2012,” said a statement on the Ministry of Information’s website. Last year the Burmese military government was replaced by a civilian government. Former soldiers still play an inportant role in this government. But the civilian government has been gradually easing restrictions since taking over. Last year, the government lifted restrictions for non-political news. And in recent months, journalists had been given guidelines allowing them to write about controversial topics, something that would have been unthinkable under the previous military rule.

Letting go of self-censorship
"Censorship began on 6 August 1964 and ended 48 years and two weeks later," Tint Swe, head of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, told AFP news agency. The Ministry announced that censorship on films and television still remains. According to Damianova we have to wait and see what the results of the new policy will be. Damianova: “After nearly fifty years without the freedom to write what they want, journalists are used to self-censorship. It will take time before journalists can let this go.”

Free Press Unlimited started in 2009 with media projects, trainings for journalists and with supporting local partners Democratic Voice of Burma and Irrawaddy. At this moment, Free Press Unlimited is relocating media from outside of Burma into the country. Damianova: “I talked with one of our partners at Democratic Voice of Burma. He said he almost cried of joy because for the first time, he was approached by people on the street who now dare to say they watch his television station.”