Burma: Government announces new Press Council with censorship mandate
15 May 2012
The Burmese government has announced the establishment of a new Press Council in June and the end of prior-censorship of political newspapers. A new media law will also be adopted in July.
An upcoming Presidential Order due in June will create a Press Council which will include representatives of several unions and will be mandated to resolve public disputes with the media. It will also protect 'the interests of the people', 'the state' and 'sovereignty' from being 'harmed' by the media. The Presidential Order should also end prior-censorship of all publications, including those of a political nature.
'We welcome the long-awaited end of prior-censorship of the media in Burma. However, at the same time, we are concerned about the establishment of a state-imposed regulatory body whose broad and vague mandate, as currently announced, could be used to censor and punish the media,' said Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 executive director.
Information Minister Kyaw Hsan announced on 14 May that the Press Council would ensure the media abide by several executive regulations including the ’12-point censorship policy’ and the Printers and Publishers Registration Act - a law that is inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression and a free media.
ARTICLE 19 called on the government to abolish the Act which it called a 'severe restriction' on freedom of expression during Burma's Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in 2011.
The environment for exercising the right to freedom of expression has opened up over the past year in Burma. However, the majority of laws that ARTICLE 19 identified as unduly restricting the right to freedom of expression remain. The government is turning a blind eye to brave journalists and human rights defenders, who in turn are taking considerable risks to inform the population, pushing the boundaries for freedom of the press.
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