April 02, 2013 08:03
Independent daily newspapers hit Burma's newsstands Monday for the first time in decades under new freedoms that represent a revolution for a media industry that was tightly controlled under military rule.
Four private dailies made the transition from weeklies as new rules took effect April 1, sweeping away state-run media's long monopoly on daily publications.
A total of 16 Burmese weekly newspapers have been granted operating licenses, but financial and logistical challenges mean the majority were not able to make the move immediately.
The four papers published Monday were quickly snapped up by eager readers. However, other publications such as D-Wave, the paper of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, are still grappling with pre-publication hurdles.
Poor financing, outmoded equipment, a lack of reporters and distribution problems are some of the stumbling blocks for media organizations wanting to expand into dailies.
Last August, authorities stopped censoring private publications in Burma, also known as Myanmar.
Four months later, they announced plans to allow the publication of independent daily newspapers, which had been banned in 1964 to accommodate the government's onerous censorship requirements.
The military government had allowed the publication of weeklies, whose distribution schedule afforded censors time to censor banned subject matter.
While journalists have described the move as a major step toward media freedom in Burma, they have also voiced outrage at the country's draft media law, released earlier this month, which critics say could roll back government promises to loosen its grip on a long tightly controlled industry.
That bill bans reporting on several topics, including the Burmese military's battles with ethnic rebels and any coverage critical of the 2008 military-drafted constitution. It also permits six-month jail terms for failing to register news publications with the government.
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