Private dailies hit newstands
First non-state papers in almost 50 years
Private daily newspapers were back on sale on newsstands for the first time in nearly 50 years on Monday, marking an end to a state monopoly on the press.
“There were no major news stories in these new dailies published today, but many people were buying them just because these are the first ever daily newspapers they had ever seen,” said Aung Ko, a newsstand owner near Sule Pagoda in Yangon.
Daily newspapers were banned following a military coup in 1962 and only state-run dailies were allowed to serve as mouthpieces of the military rulers.
But political reforms which began after a civilian government led by retired army generals took office two years ago have resulted in a major boom in the media industry. It now has over 130 weekly journals.
The notorious press censorship board was scrapped last year, meaning publishers are no longer required to submit publications before they are published. Last month, the government approved 16 applications for newspaper licenses. Four were ready to publish on Monday.
“All my newspapers were sold out. We are proud to be the one of the first newspapers which were published today,” said Ye Myint Pe, editor-in-chief of The Standard Time Daily which covers politics and general news and is distributed both in Yangon and Mandalay.
The other newspapers published today, The Union Daily, which is run by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, and The Voice Daily and The Golden Fresh Land also sold out quickly, according to distributors.
However, they carried few news stories and no major articles and some of the content was lifted from online Burmese news websites.
Meanwhile, challenges to the press still exist. A recent draft law introduced by the government still contains many repressive elements.
The law stipulates that newspapers, which are deemed a threat the country’s national stability and harm the army-drafted 2008 constitution, will have their licenses revoked.
“There are many other difficulties such as transportation. But we are confident that we succeed in the long run,” said Ye Myint Pe.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press announced today that it had been granted permission on Saturday to open an official news bureau in the country.
"AP has a proud history of reportage from Myanmar, and the new multimedia bureau marks the beginning of an even more robust commitment," said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt in a press statement.
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