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Publishers report losses due to deputy censor chief's strict policies

(Mizzima/IFEX) - Local journalists in Rangoon claimed that their publications have been suffering from financial losses due to the harsh policies of the deputy chief of the censor board.

Censorship has reportedly become more severe since Maj. Aung Kyaw Oo, the deputy chief of the notorious Press Scrutiny Board, popularly known as "Literary Kempeitai", took over the duties of his superior, Maj. Tint Swe, who is in Naypyitaw attending a major government meeting.

A monthly magazine editor who requested anonymity said the censor board deputy director has imposed stricter restrictions on magazines and journals to ensure he does not run afoul of his superior.

"He censors many more news and articles whenever Maj. Tint Swe is on official tour. It is painful for us to see these censored manuscripts. Apparently, he does not want to get into trouble [with Maj. Tint Swe]," he said.

Print media publishers have to submit a draft copy to the censor board. After getting back the materials, they have to remove the censored articles, typeset the issue again for the final copy and then submit it for final approval. Only after they pass through these stages can publishers distribute their papers and magazines in the market.

Mizzima learned that under Maj. Aung Kyaw Oo's directives, the censor board usually removes about half of the 80 domestic news items from each weekly journal at the draft copy stage.

"We could easily ask the director (Tint Swe) to reconsider the publication of censored news and articles after slight modifications. We cannot do this with the acting chief censor," a weekly journal editor said.

The acting censor chief also issued an order that all news stories about government ministries and departments in which the heads of the departments concerned or their representatives had not been interviewed would be deleted.

Literary magazines such as "Mahaythi", "Cherry", "Ahtwe Ahmyin", "Nwe Ni", and "Sabephyu" were among those severely hit, with their circulation plummeting.

A monthly magazine which had a circulation of over 10,000 copies before is now selling just 7,000 copies. Meanwhile, a magazine that used to sell 3,000 copies can now barely sell 1,000 copies.

"The censor board badly cuts and deletes widely read popular articles and it is hardly readable with so many deletions and omissions. On the other hand, the readers cannot afford to buy these magazines as prices of basic goods keep rising," said a veteran magazine editor who wished not to be named.

As the market for the monthly literary magazines shrinks, publishers are now relying more on advertising revenue to cover production costs.

"Magazines now turn to advertising as an alternative source of income. The market for magazines that offer only literary content is shrinking day by day," he said.

"Maj. Aung Kyaw Oo has been in this office for about four months. He is tough [on us]. He has no literary or journalistic background, unlike Maj. Tint Swe who has a background in journalism. He shows more sympathy with journalists," a magazine editor said.

For further information on censorship in Burma, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96171/

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