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Free Media In Burma Still A Mixed Bag

IMPHAL, Apr 21: Re-calling that freedom of expression or the existence of a free and independent media went up in smoke, after the military seized power and imposed Martial Law in Myanmar in 1962, the State has gagged freedom of speech and the existence of a free and fair media.

Delivering a talk on the subject, “Freedom of Expression and Media in Burma” at Manipur University today, Chief Editor, Soe Myint of Burmese newspaper, Mizzima News, said that things took a turn for the better after the Junta adopted a new Constitution in 2008.

Under the new Constitution, every citizen was given the right to express his or her views.

However, foreign based media, especially from the Western countries such as BBC and CNN continue to be banned, he said and added that there is also a strict surveillance over internet connections with a number of websites coming under the banned category.

Despite the adoption of a new Constitution, Burma continues to remain isolated from the international community, observed the Chief Editor, who has been living in exile at Delhi for years.

Stating that the media does not have much of an impact on the country, Soe Myint said that only 8 pc of the total population of Burma read newspapers.

The Junta also cracked down on the invasion from the sky, like internets, he said and added that in 1996 and 2002 stringent laws was passed to check and monitor what the people watch. As of today only 1 pc of the population have access to internet connection.

The Voice Over Internet Protocol and Skype has also been yanked off the air, he informed.

However certain flexibilities have crept in and today with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, access to internet services is comparatively easier and there are other major sources of news available now.

Soe Myint further said that the major sources of news and information include Mizzima News Agency, Irrawady Magazine, Democratic Voice of Burma, Shan Herald News Agency, Nalingjasa News, Non-Independent News Agency etc. The Burmese exile added that there are 50 reporters working in his paper, Mizzima.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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