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Renewed censoring of magazine's poems and articles provoke publication delay, financial losses

(Mizzima/IFEX) - The Burmese Press Scrutiny Board's delay in reviewing the articles in "Cherry Magazine" forced the Rangoon-based monthly to skip its August 2008 issue. The August issue, scheduled for publication by the end of July, was released only on 12 August, prompting the publisher to designate it as the September 2008 issue instead. The delay in publication of this issue, which was a special one to mark the twenty-fourth anniversary of the magazine's founding, provoked financial losses for the publication.

Despite its delay in reviewing the magazine's content, the censorship board approved only five poems out of the 16 submitted for the obligatory scrutiny, according to a Rangoon-based magazine editor who regularly reads and monitors the magazine publications in the country.

The source, who requested anonymity, said the censors usually take a week to review the contents of a particular magazine. This time, though, it took them two weeks to approve even just four of the poems for publication.

"Normally, the magazine carries seven poems in each issue, so the editors submitted more poems than usual. By the time the censors made their decision, the regular publication date of the twentieth of the month had already passed," the editor, who is close to the "Cherry Magazine" staff, told Mizzima.

"This was supposed to be a special anniversary issue, but the censorship board rejected many articles and several paragraphs were deleted in some stories," he added.

The Burmese Press Scrutiny Board said it lacked the human resources as the chief scrutiny officer is on leave and other officials, more junior, must also scrutinise articles from other publications.

The editor, however, said it was a lame excuse. "All other magazines received their approved articles on time," he added. He said the real reason is that the government tightened the censorship of "Cherry Magazine" after it published a controversial poem, entitled "Depayinga", in July 2008. On that occasion, the censorship board summoned and questioned the editor, and later ordered him to resign.

In Burma it is standard practice for monthly magazine publishers to submit more articles then they actually intend to print, to cope with the tight censorship practices of authorities and to have enough articles and poems to print even if the censorship board rejects several of them.

"Cherry Magazine" was first published in August 1984; the August 2008 issue was supposed to be its 24th anniversary special issue. The publisher suffered financial losses as a result of the publication's delay.

For further information on the "Depayinga" poem case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94946

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